Hard Rock's CEO Gallegos recognized as 2011 Great Women of Gaming Rising Star

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Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Albuquerque Interim CEO Pamela Gallegos' employees say she's a spitfire and passionate about her work.

And apparently all that zest has paid off, because this May, Gallegos was recognized by Casino Enterprise Management magazine with a 2011 Great Women of Gaming Rising Star Award.

According to the Casino Enterprise website, the award is meant to honor women in gaming who go above and beyond "to achieve truly great things in the gaming industry."

"A spitfire? Well, I'm a woman in gaming, it's a tough business," says Gallegos. "The reason Casino Enterprise Management focuses this award on women is because women are just typically never recognized. Men are always at the forefront and gaming especially … But more and more women are making their place in gaming."

Gallegos, who was nominated by her employees for the award, says as an Hispanic, she is not only a woman in a man's world but a minority, as well.

"It's not just a matter of it being a great honor for me, it's always great when a woman (is recognized)," she said. "I'm a minority and I'm local, that's even, I think, more exciting.

"It's not just an award for me, it's recognizing the job that me and my team are doing."

Gallegos says she's tried to make changes within the casino to "bring things back home."

She says for her, it really is home since she was born and raised in Albuquerque, so making it a more community-oriented establishment is near and dear to her. She believes being a local helps her be able to relate better to her guests, as well.

Since she has been interim CEO, Gallegos says she has made steps toward giving back to the community of Isleta through recognizing the tribal elders and veterans and changing the "tone" of the casino by having door greeters and her "coffee with a CEO" program, where she has coffee with guests to get their feedback.

She says she doesn't want people to view Hard Rock Albuquerque as "hard and abrasive."

"I don't think those things would happen if it were a man (as CEO), I hate to say that, but I don't see that happening," said Gallegos, who says she walks the floor and communicates with her employees to make sure they are happy. "You know, the line level employees, they make us or break us. And unless you give them the recognition they deserve, you're not going to get anywhere."

She says within the local community relationships are key and without nurturing them a business is doomed.

Gallegos worked in the health care industry for 13 years, and came into gaming by accident when national companies took over St. Joseph's Hospital and she realized it was time for a change.

"It takes special people to work in this industry, it really is tough," she says.

Gallegos says because of the high volume of tribally owned casinos in New Mexico it is extremely competitive.

In an email to casino and hotel employees, from Michelle Jojola-Barwick, interim surveillance director, informing them of Gallegos' award, she wrote, "(Gallegos) is a woman who is truly committed to professionalism, has a strong drive and commitment, who has shown exceptional personal achievements."

On top of her Great Women of Gaming Award, Gallegos has also recently been appointed to the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce Board, where she says she is representing the casino and the tribe.

"This is a first for tribes as well," said Gallegos. "I think they're starting to see tribes really do have a lot of power. They can add a lot to the city."


-- Email the author at udavila@news-bulletin.com.