This week I’ve been speaking to Sabrina about her career, achievements, and what it means to be an immigrant in a highly competitive industry. Her resilience and grit are impressive, and I am very excited to share our chat with you all.
About: Sabrina Pinto, Vice President of VIP and Events at Penn Interactive, is a leader in the gaming industry with over 13 years of experience. In her role at Penn Entertainment, she oversees VIP and Events strategy across the United States and Canada for Penn Entertainment’s online brands. Sabrina has played a pivotal role in the success of 18 state launches and is gearing up for the launch of ESPN Bet’s online sportsbook in North America. As a Latina professional born in the Dominican Republic, her unique perspective and extensive industry knowledge make her a fascinating figure to feature on BettingLadies.com.
You’ve had a successful career in the gaming and casino industry (congratulations!). What initially drew you to this industry?
Sabrina. Thank you Val! It has been rewarding to meet the challenges the gaming and casino industry. What initially drew me to gaming was the fast-paced atmosphere and high-stakes competitive environment. Early on, I also had the pleasure of meeting many high achieving women in gaming. I admired how they leveraged their talent, knowledge, and skills to achieve high level positions. This kept me in the space as I saw so much potential for myself.
Do you believe that being a Latina in the world of gambling provided you with a competitive advantage or unique perspectives in your roles?
Sabrina. Absolutely. I have held consulting roles that included Latin American countries in which being a native Spanish speaker offered a huge competitive advantage. I was able to negotiate deals with vendors, build relationships across continents, and put together marketing plans that catered to Latin-American players. It was always a dream of mine to have a role that was centered in international business, so this skill helped me achieve that ‘check’ on my professional bucket list.
Additionally, my experience as a Latina immigrant has given me a unique perspective when building a team. While it is important to recognize high achievement, I enjoy conversations with people of diverse backgrounds when exploring potential new hires. I love to hire on potential, and the immigrant experience engrains that into a person.
What advice would you offer to other women who aspire to follow a similar career path in the gaming and casino industry?
Sabrina. When I started my career in gaming people offered only one piece of advice as I entered the casino industry and it was “trust no one”. I am so happy to be witnessing the drastic changes in culture in the gaming industry over the past decade with the catalyst of the online gaming boom. This was a space that desperately needed quality leadership, with true accountability both internally and for customers. I am so proud of the many diversity and inclusion initiatives here at Penn and look forward to it’s further evolution.
That being said, I believe much like any other industry that is male-dominated, women looking to enter this space need to do with that knowledge. Knowing that there will be a limited group of women on which to lean can be lonely, however I would encourage women to find networking groups and other women with similar roles to relate to in places like linked in and other professional groups. Additionally, I would encourage these women to attend conferences and online seminars, and closely follow the ever-changing and exciting changes happening in the gambling space. Being well-informed about the history of gaming and online gaming and where it is going will help newcomers in any area achieve greater success.
In your opinion, what is the role of women in the sports betting industry, and how can we overcome any barriers or glass ceilings that may exist?
Sabrina. This is a classic dilemma of which comes first the chicken or the egg. I believe our role as women in the sports betting industry as operators and marketers is to provide a safe, fun and engaging product for all of our customers. In the example of slot operations and marketing, historically we have seen a dominance of female gamblers. This has led to increased opportunities for female employment in high-level marketing and operations roles within the industry to service these customers.
My opinion is that we need to consistently market and cater to our female databases in order to overcome barriers and glass ceilings in sports betting. As an industry we will need to consistently invest in and employ high potential female leaders in sports betting in order to maximize our potential revenue streams. More importantly, make sure they have a voice and seat at the table.
What, in your view, are the most significant trends or changes that have occurred in the sports betting and igaming industry over the past few years?
Sabrina. This space is exploding with brilliant minds and innovation. I am particularly excited about the predictive models around responsible gaming that now exist and that protect customers. On the product side, the evolution of live betting offerings, wide variety of parlays, and customized bet offerings are features that our customers rave about. The increased number of markets our bettors can place wagers, including the esports offerings in certain states is also a really fun part of witnessing the growth of the industry.
There has also been so much progress made on the payments front, providing safe and easy to use options for customers. All of this innovation is leading to a wider acceptance of players to stay off of black market sites and stick with regulated sites, a trend that is a win for all of us.
What do women want (in sports betting)?
Sabrina. As I think about the majority of women I know and customers we have that are female VIPs, I would say that many female potential bettors are interested but intimidated to try it. For existing players, I find women want these top three things:
1. An easy to use product – both seasoned bettors and novice alike will engage if the product is smooth and easy to use.
2. FUN! Engaging marketing and promotions targeted to their likes and interests.
3. Perks/Loyalty programs and experiences with female-centric rewards in mind.
We will continue to see growth in female databases across the sports betting industry as the space matures. It’s no surprise that when PASPA was repealed in 2018, the influx of bettors to regulated platforms was predominantly male due to the nature of the betting transactions with off-shore bookies prior to that date.
That leaves a vast blue ocean of female bettors out there that we have still yet to encounter as customers which is truly exciting as a marketer and operator! As we continue to test, acquire, and explore different market segments such as ethnic centered marketing in the regulated industry, I believe the fundamental “wants” of the sports betting consumer will be universal.