DURANT – March is International Women’s History Month, and in honor of International Women’s Day (Wednesday, March 8, 2023), Choctaw Casinos & Resorts have chosen to highlight seven female associates who have worked in casino gaming for more than 20 years. They have initiated change in their communities, the workplace and in a predominantly male-driven industry.
Owned and operated by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the third-largest Indian Nation in the United States with more than 208,000 tribal members and 12,000 employees, Choctaw Casinos & Resorts feature a variety of gaming, hotel, and resort properties throughout southeastern Oklahoma. Locations include Durant, Grant, Pocola, Idabel, Broken Bow, McAlester, Stigler and Stringtown.
Choctaw Casinos & Resorts supports its associates in their efforts in improving their departments and volunteering in the community. These women are just a few of hundreds of female Choctaw Associates who are making a difference in the industry.
Christy Chaser, General Manager, Choctaw Casino & Resort – Pocola
Joining the Choctaw Nation in 1994, Christy Chaser was a part of the original team that opened the Bingo Hall in Pocola, Oklahoma, over 20 years ago. Starting as a Bingo Admissions Clerk and Cage Cashier, Chaser worked her way up to Vault Manager, then Cage Manager and Assistant General Manager. By 2005, she was promoted to Choctaw Casino & Resort – Pocola General Manager. As general manager, she monitors the property’s gaming facility, administers policies and procedures, supervises casino personnel, promotes good customer services and more.
“Women in leadership roles in the gaming industry are much more common than when I started in the ‘90s,” said Christy Chaser, Choctaw Casino & Resort – Pocola General Manager. “Choctaw has always embraced women in leadership roles, and it’s inspiring to so many young women and recognizing the strength of including women ahead of the industry is probably one of the reasons that Choctaw has been so successful in gaming. I am so proud and grateful that I have had the opportunity to be a part of that.”
Amy Davis, General Manager, Choctaw Casinos – Broken Bow and Idabel
Amy Davis joined the Choctaw Nation in 2001, shortly after she transitioned to a role in the gaming industry, where she proudly has worked for the last 18 years at Choctaw Casinos in Broken Bow and Idabel, Oklahoma. Over her tenure at Choctaw Casinos & Resorts, Davis has held the roles of Promotions Manager, Cage Manager, Drop & Soft Count Manager, and Purchasing Account Manager before moving into her current position as Casino General Manager.
As Casino General Manager, Davis is responsible for developing business strategies and comprehensive goals for performance and growth at Choctaw Casinos Broken Bow and Idabel. In addition, she has established outstanding community relations with numerous stakeholders and used her strategy, market analysis, marketing campaigns, identification of key business opportunities with associated risk, and strategic alliances to ensure the property’s success.
“My proudest career moments are watching one of my associates or managers move up in our organization. It’s amazing to see so much growth within our tribe, and the women I work with daily inspires me to be a better leader,” said Amy Davis, Choctaw Casino – Broken Bow and Idabel General Manager. “My biggest personal career achievement is receiving the Rising Star Award. Our Executive Officer gives this award out yearly to a new leader in gaming, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a recipient, especially as a female in this industry.”
Janie Dillard, Choctaw Nation SEO Division of Commerce
A modern-day trailblazer, Janie Dillard set her roots in the gaming industry starting in 1987 as a floor manager and was quickly promoted to director for Choctaw Nation’s first Bingo Palace in southeastern Oklahoma. As the Nation transitioned from bingo halls to casinos, Janie led the Nation’s expansion throughout southeastern Oklahoma. By 2001, she was Executive Director of Gaming, managing the tribe’s gaming compact with the State of Oklahoma and opening four casinos, including the flagship Choctaw Casino & Resort in Durant, and she ensured it was all completed debt free!
Known for her confidence in steering the tribe’s gaming operations in a male-dominated field, Dillard has moved up the ranks, becoming Senior Executive Officer for the Choctaw Nation’s Division of Commerce in January 2018. In this role, she oversees 21 gaming sites, 17 travel plazas, three resorts, three country markets and Choctaw print services, providing strategic guidance and optimizing the Nation’s revenue-generating businesses.
Throughout her career, Janie has served as an Officer for the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) for 18 years. A founder of the first OIGA Tradeshow, she helped OIGA grow from 12 vendors and 50 attendees in 1994 to a premier Gaming Tradeshow that attracts gaming leaders from across the state. In 2010, Janie was awarded the OIGA Warriors Award for lifetime achievement. In 2011, Janie was one of 11 gaming professionals presented with Casino Enterprise Management’s “2010 Great Women of Gaming Proven Leader Award” for her outstanding professionalism, perseverance, drive, commitment, and mentorship.
Shanis Goodson, General Manager, Choctaw Casino & Resort – Grant
In 2002, Shanis Goodson joined the Choctaw Nation as a Finance Clerk while attending college. Upon graduation, she transitioned into the gaming industry as an Internal Auditor for the Gaming Commission. Later, she moved to a position within gaming and entertainment as an Event Coordinator and eventually settled in Grant, Oklahoma, in 2009 as the Event Center Manager. She was then promoted to Assistant General Manager and, in 2017, became the General Manager of Choctaw Casino & Resort – Grant.
As General Manager, Goodson oversees all casino departments and operations at Choctaw Casino & Resort – Grant, supervises associates, and establishes collaborative work environments, determines company goals and manages financial operations.
Goodson encouraged anyone seeking a position in the gaming industry to challenge themselves, work hard and never give up.
“Colin Powell, said it best, “There are no secrets to success. It is the results of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure,” states Shanis Goodson, Choctaw Casino & Resort – Grant General Manager. “When you walk into any of our properties, the goal is to know you’ll always have a good time and feel like family, and I believe that is directly contributed to the successful women we have in leadership roles within the tribe.”
Heidi Grant, Executive Officer of Gaming & Hospitality for the Division of Commerce
Heidi Grant began her career with the Choctaw Nation in 1997 as a Bingo Clerk at Choctaw Indian High Stakes Bingo. She was quickly promoted and held various positions as the evolution of gaming grew in Oklahoma. Positions included Casino Operations Manager, General Manager
of several locations and Director of Project Management. In 2015, Grant was promoted to Executive Director of Gaming and Hospitality and, since 2019, has served as the Executive Officer of Gaming and Hospitality for the Division of Commerce.
As Executive Officer, she oversees three casino resorts with more than 2,000 hotel rooms, four stand-alone casinos and 15 Casino Too locations, a family entertainment center, and an RV Park.
Grant has been an integral part of the Choctaw Nation gaming enterprise and has been involved in the growth and expansion of more than 22 casino renovations and new construction projects for the tribe.
“The biggest reward of my career is knowing WHY we do what we do and seeing that come to life,” said Heidi Grant, Executive Officer of Gaming and Hospitality for the Division of Commerce. “Our purpose is to provide revenue for our tribe and tribal members. When a group of children go to summer camp, we help send them. When an elder move into a new home, we help provide that. When a mom goes to college, we help send her. Those are the moments we work for. Those are my achievements.”
Shelly Lance, General Manager, Choctaw Casinos – Atoka and Stringtown
Shelly Lance began her career with the Choctaw Nation as a server at the 3 Arrows Grill in Stringtown, Okla. Over the last 19 years, Lance has been a Cage Cashier, Slot Supervisor, Marketing and Slot Manager and, in 2010, became the General Manager for the Atoka Casino Too. Lance was given the opportunity to oversee the operations of the Stringtown Casino, Stringtown Casino Too, and the Atoka Casino Too as General Manager and has happily served her tribe proud in that role since 2015.
“For women just beginning their career in the gaming industry, I offer these few words of advice; be excited about your career and your purpose and develop a team that complements each other, take care of them, and continue to focus on their growth,” states Shelly Lance, General Manager at Choctaw Casino – Atoka and Stringtown. “Seek out mentors and develop a network to aid your growth and never stop learning. Lastly, look to other current powerful women within your tribe for guidance, support, and inspiration.”
Since 2003, Lance has been blessed with many proud personal career moments during her employment with the Choctaw Nation and will forever be grateful for the opportunities that she’s had. One of Lance’s proudest moments is witnessing the success and growth of her Tribe and its Tribal members.
Lila Tucker, General Manager, Choctaw Casino – McAlester
Lila Tucker is the General Manager of Choctaw Casino – McAlester and has been with Choctaw Casinos & Resorts for more than two decades.
Beginning her career in 1997 at the Bingo Hall in Idabel, Tucker was the first woman to hold the position of Security Officer at the property. In 1999, Tucker then worked as an Off-Track Betting Teller and was quickly promoted to Vault Manager, then Assistant General Manager. In 2008, she became the General Manager of the Broken Bow property and, more recently, serves as the General Manager at Choctaw Casino – McAlester.
For Tucker, working in the gaming industry started out as an entry-level job. What she later discovered, was a passion for the industry that turned into a more that 23-year career.
“I am humbled to be able to lead one of our properties within Choctaw Casinos & Resorts amongst my fellow women leaders,” said Lila Tucker, Choctaw Casino – McAlester General Manager. “The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s vast array of iconic gaming properties in southeast Oklahoma offers such a unique experience to team members, tribal members and guests that directly reflects the tribe’s values and cultures.”