Jennifer Rushton understands what it takes to make a success in gaming, so her role with UP, which oversees lottery and gaming development initiatives in Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, is predictive. The organization works with a number of companies such as OLG, Canadian Bank Note, Pollard Banknote and Gateway Casinos & Entertainment. Municipal and provincial governments and the private sector fund UP.
“There is no financial requirement by the companies we assist,” says Rushton, UP’s vice president of business development. “Businesses think of us as facilitators and partners, rather than economic development agents. We are focused on delivering better performance for our clients.”
Rushton’s department supports growth of existing partners, introduces new companies to opportunities and collaborates with Innovation and Marketing & Communications to develop additional strategies.
“Our mandate is to grow the lottery and gaming partnerships in Sault Ste. Marie, creating new jobs, stimulating and diversifying the economy.”
Growing up outside Toronto, Rushton started in the industry while at York University. She worked in customer service and sales and marketing on the online gaming side in the early 2000s. In 2006, she joined the Canadian sales office for table-game supplier TCSJohnHuxley. During her career rise, Rushton got to work alongside role models who strengthened her passion for the industry and developed the principles that guide her today.
Take TCSJohnHuxley’s Canadian general manager, Brad Broderick. “With his strong business acumen and comprehensive knowledge of the casino industry, Brad demonstrated the significance of relationships,” says Rushton, who spends a lot of free time watching her four children play hockey.
Rick Juleen, Jr., vice president of business development at Young Electric Sign Company, inspired Rushton’s tenacity, with the competitive- collaborative environment he created. “The spirit of that environment fuels me to always push a little harder.”
As for the future, Rushton sees the lottery and gaming sector expanding to include eSports and sports betting. “We will be home to significant brands in each of those gaming verticals.”
Data will continue to drive decision-making, she says. With stronger data comes a more responsive player experience. “Operators will eventually know guests better than they know themselves. Apps, sensors and analytics that engage guests at multiple points enable limitless opportunities,” says Rushton, who moved to Sault Ste. Marie in 2015, which provided more time with family, cooking, baking and other activities.
Rushton also sees women enjoying more leadership opportunities as companies push demand for a more inclusive place. “The myopic lens of the ‘golden boys club’ of gaming isn’t viable anymore,” she says.
Five years down the road, Rushton expects to have a leadership role in the industry. “I will continue to support women’s advancement through advocacy groups and mentorship roles and will champion the success of the lottery and gaming partnerships in Sault Ste. Marie.”
Career progression is a journey. Take the time to enjoy the journey, she urges newbies. “Don’t rush to the next level of your career at the risk of missing out on the depth of knowledge that your current role affords you or the possibility of jeopardizing the support system that has helped you along the way.”