Having a mother champion an industry for her daughter might not seem so unusual, but gaming probably wouldn’t be your first guess— Justine Clay’s mother pitched casinos because she’s an avid slot and bingo player.
“There will always be gaming,” Mom told her daughter.
With the growth of iGaming and sports betting, Mom was more prescient than ever that her daughter made the right choice.
“I love this industry, and continue to learn and expand my knowledge every day,” Clay says.
As senior director for customer success at GAN, Clay oversees a Las Vegas-based team liaising with partners, in addition to handling one of the company’s largest accounts. “I work closely with our teams around the world to ensure future developments are on track and live issues are addressed in real time.”
Born and raised in Brockton, Massachusetts, south of Boston, Clay obtained an associate degree at Massasoit Community College. She went west to San Diego State University where she became one of the initial graduates of the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming at the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. The program focuses on cultural and political contexts, casino operations, legal and regulatory issues, marketing and public relations in tribal gaming.
“I had the opportunity to couple the education with an internship at Sycuan Casino in San Diego,” she says.
During and after college, Clay worked as a cocktail server, a concierge and a slot attendant. These experiences groomed her for future challenges involving customer interactions and prepared her with different problem-solving techniques.
“Being able to connect with people and relate to the customer is an area I’ve been able to excel in thanks to those early gaming-floor experiences,” she says.
After the Sycuan Institute, Clay worked in tribal gaming operations, commercial gaming operations and independent gaming testing laboratories along with her current role on the iGaming and sports supplier side of the business.
Before joining GAN, Clay received a promotion at Gaming Laboratories International to director of client services for North America. This was during the Covid-19 pandemic, right after she gave birth to her second daughter.
“I was still able to take my full maternity leave,” she says. “However, coming back and turning on the laptop at home for eight-plus hours a day was a major adjustment at first. But there was some benefit to being home as well. I’m sure many of us in the industry struggled with work-life balance, given that you were home 24/7 for almost two years.”
It’s not that easy to just walk away from the laptop and take a break, Clay says. Flexibility is key. Parents often had to home-school children and take care of them afterwards on top of their full-time jobs.
“One of the more difficult changes we all faced during the pandemic was not being physically available to meet with a colleague or client in person,” says Clay, who enjoys a beach vacation with her family to relax. “Many of us experienced ‘Zoom fatigue.’ Trade shows were done virtually, and it just wasn’t the same. I personally enjoy being around people and meeting face-to-face.”
With the pandemic behind her, Clay can now work on getting back to normal. In five years, she expects to see more and more jurisdictions legalize sports betting and online gaming in both commercial and tribal locations.
“Digital technology will continue to innovate and thrive in our industry,” she says.
And that means new recruits. Clay has some advice for the next generation:
“Don’t be afraid to take risks, ask questions and make suggestions if you see improvements that can be made somewhere within your organization,” she says.
And have fun. “Love what you’re doing, even on the toughest days in your career.”