English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

Tracy Damestani Les Ambassadeurs Group Interview with Casino Life

Ambassadeurs Group’s Tracy Damestani is someone to watch. By Peter White

Tracy Damestani is a woman on the move. Scarcely had she stepped down from the board of the European Casino Association than she was named an industry ambassador for ICE London. Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for Ambassadeurs Group, Damestani has also long been an advocate for responsible gaming. She’s been attending ICE since back in its Earls Court days, in 2003, so her new posting returns her to familiar territory.
She’s seen a lot of changes in those years, including the passage of the landmark Gambling Act of 2005, as well as the transition of ICE to London’s mammoth, purpose-built ExCeL center, “with an international attendance that’s unrivalled by any other gambling industry event held anywhere in the world,” Damestani says. She counts on her resumé the CEO position at the National Casino Forum, vice chairmanship of the European Casino Association, as well as advocacy for diversity in the gaming industry. In conversation with Casino Life, she discusses her myriad accomplishments, her commitment to player protection and her new role with Les Ambassadors. It promises to be an exciting new voyage.
Please could you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
I have been working in the industry for the last 20 years. Up until 2020 I was CEO of the National Casino Forum and brought all land-based casino operators under one umbrella, giving the sector a strong, single, unified voice. Promoting safer gambling has always been a crucial element of my activities. I was privileged to work alongside Sir David Durie, the chair for RIGT at the very outset of establishing the industry’s charity and commissioning body, which is now known as GambleAware. I was vice-chair of the ECA and gained great insight into other countries’ ways of managing regulation and player protection.
I’m passionate and dedicated to raising standards across business. During my time at the National Casino Forum we formulated and delivered trailblazing programmes such as:
• SENSE, the industry’s first Web-based, national VSE scheme
• Playing Safe, a gambling framework, which introduced the term ‘safer gambling’
• ACE, a nationally recognized C&SR accreditation for land-based casinos
• IPCA, the industry’s first national, free-to-use, customer-dispute-resolution service
• DICE, the industry’s first equality, diversity and inclusion framework
• Alert Bettor, an integrated player-protection monitoring system
I represented the British gambling industry and provided guidance to the EU Commission, assisting with standardising transferable skills for ESCO, the multilingual classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations.
Can you describe Ambassadeurs Group?
Ambassadeurs Group has expedited its plans to diversify its offering that will be a catalyst for raising standards in social justice and create positive change across the industry. Our corporate approach is socially responsible, embraces equality, diversity and inclusion. It builds on the well-established Les Ambassadeurs work-family ethos. Our key aim is to raise standards across businesses, and improve our corporate environmental and economic footprint. We believe that together we can inspire others to embrace achievable and sustainable change.
How would you describe your role at Ambassadeurs Group and your position within the organisation?
My role as chief of corporate affairs primarily involves liaising with stakeholders such as members of Parliament, the regulator and media; helping to develop and guide policy and comms, and offer insights in relation to safer gambling and charitable aims.
With ICE London on the horizon, can you provide readers details on your role with this major international event and what it encompasses?
We will be participating at several events during ICE. Our work-family have been asked to present their ground-breaking initiatives at ICE master classes. I have been asked to be an ICE Ambassador, and as a critical friend will be working with Clarion Events throughout the year. Watch this space...
How do you see the future with regards to cryptocurrencies?
Crypto currency is already here and is a growing payment mechanism for gambling worldwide. The UK has the highest standards for source-of-funds  checks in the world. Despite this fact our regulator has moved at a glacial pace in its acceptance of crypto as a source of payment. This must change if the UK is to compete internationally and with other very progressive, crypto-friendly jurisdictions such as the Isle of Mann. Cryptocurrencies are not to be feared nor ignored, governments across the globe are investing in establishing crypto, mostly seeking to peg them to fiat. The UK government has been very open about its intention to create Britcoin.

What is Ambassadeur Group’s view on corporate social responsibility?

We are proactive on social responsibility and engage with a myriad of charities and good causes. We recently announced a ten-fold increase in our voluntary donation to RET, starting January 2022, and have committed to providing this funding to GambleAware. We will be making further announcements soon in regard to safer gambling. We are proud to be leading the way and encourage likeminded peers to get on board.
Can you tell us more about the project development phases of Ambassadeurs Group, what they include and what are your plans for future development?
We are moving swiftly into the digital world, several pilots are underway in the e-commerce space, including NFTs and we are working with Yield, a crypto currency. We’re gearing up to launch a sportsbook product in the second half of 2022, and recently launched Les A Online, with an emphasis on player protection that we believe does not exist anywhere in the world. Our work-family are embarking on this journey with us and are being upskilled to be ready for the great post-Covid re-set. Every step we take is underpinned with giving back, in line with our levelling up policy.
It is a difficult time for the hospitality industry. What do you think will be the hospitality sector’s biggest challenge, post-Covid?
My hope is that the biggest challenge will be due to high customer demand. Our staff have largely remained in place so we know we can meet our customers’ needs. However, we understand that Covid has shaken consumer confidence, and certain behaviours have changed, meaning it may take time for pre-Covid behaviours to return. Our clientele is predominantly international, so rules around international travel are a major factor for our business.
That said, having the necessary products and freedoms to attract and retain our ultra-high-net-worth customers, such as appropriate stakes and prizes on fully tracked electronic gaming machines, and to be allowed to transact with our clientele just as our peers can in Europe and beyond are crucial. It will be totally illogical if our Mayfair business continues to be stifled by antiquated legislation that serves no logical purpose. We are calling for Section 81 of the Gambling Act to be brought in line with payment practices commonly used around the world.
Can you provide an insight into the various changes patrons will find when the walk back into Les Ambassadeurs?
Our patrons will be welcomed by the friendliest and most professional people in the industry. They will feel like they have ‘come home.’ We miss seeing our guests. We have increased our offering of electronic table games and slots to accommodate customers. Our patrons will experience even more opportunities for interaction with our gaming staff as we welcome returning members. Every day at Les Ambassadeurs is Safer Gambling Day!
During your career to date you have walked through the doors of many high-profile organisations. However, what is it like walk into work at one of the most famous and exclusive
casinos in the world, Les Ambassadeurs?
I am immensely privileged and proud to be at Les Ambassadeurs, I get a thrill every time I cross the threshold. It feels that I have climbed the work mountain to get here, the view from here is wonderful, the work-family are inspiring, they care about each other and their guests. Our CEO is a cut above the rest, he has a moral compass combined with brilliant business acumen and energy that is truly unique.
Have you anything else you would like to add?
Diversity, inclusivity and equality are proactively promoted throughout the Ambassadeurs Group. The compliance and management teams here are truly second to none and given my previous role I can say that with utmost confidence!