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Balancing the Books in Big Business

Featuring: Kathy Forester, MSA, CPA, Controller-Gaming Properties at San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

June 25, 2024


Finance in the gaming industry is as dynamic and challenging as the games that light up the casino floors. Controllers like Kathy Forester, MSA, CPA, who currently oversees financial operations for the gaming properties at San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, play a pivotal role in ensuring that these vibrant enterprises not only entertain but also operate with rigorous financial integrity.

A Journey Through Numbers

Forester's path to becoming a Controller in one of the largest gaming venues in Southern California is marked by a series of calculated steps and continuous learning. Starting her career as a clerk, Forester’s relentless pursuit of knowledge and skill propelled her through various roles in Accounting and Finance, amassing over 15 years of experience across different industries before focusing on the unique world of casino operations. “The casino industry is so unique; there is a lot to learn. You learn about the casino and the food and beverage, hotel, and all kinds of revenue streams. It all helps in gaining valuable insights and knowledge about general accounting for the entire property.”

Strategic Financial Oversight

In her current role, Forester is pivotal in ensuring the financial health of the gaming properties she manages. Her days are filled with critical tasks that extend beyond traditional accounting, they range from overseeing month and year-end close schedules to providing technical guidance and strategic oversight.

Forester elaborates on her role's strategic importance: "The expectations are different; they want financial [reports] to be more strategic and more analytical. They don’t want us to just report on the numbers. They’re looking for us to interpret and understand what they’re saying, the trends we’re seeing so Directors can make strategic business decisions." This perspective underscores the evolving role of financial professionals in settings where they are expected to be both accountants and strategic advisers.

Leveraging Technology for Efficiency

The adoption of advanced technology is a cornerstone of Forester's strategy to enhance efficiency and accuracy in financial reporting. She is at the forefront of implementing a new, robust financial system that promises transformative changes to traditional processes. "The new software we’re implementing is a robust financial system with reporting, which will also help our teams be more collaborative and share progress and reports. It will create a lot of efficiencies in our process," Forester explains, highlighting the move towards more integrated and real-time financial management.

Rigorous Compliance and Ethical Standards

In a regulated industry like gaming, maintaining stringent compliance is as crucial as financial management itself. Forester's approach involves rigorous adherence to standards and proactive engagement with regulatory updates. "We have a lot of resources available to keep abreast with new changes in gaming compliance. We have an internal compliance department that regularly audits us. We have continued education classes available to continue to learn about the gaming industry," she details, emphasizing the layered and continuous nature of compliance in the gaming sector. Between the internal checks and balances and the information her team receives from the Gaming Commission, Forester ensures her team is continuously regulating their financials.

Wisdom for the Future

Reflecting on her extensive career and the lessons learned along the way, Forester offers poignant advice to emerging professionals: "Never stop learning. Continue to learn new things and you'll be ready for the challenges that are presented in front of you. You’ll never know how far you'll go." This counsel inspires and serves as a practical guide for those aspiring to reach new heights in their careers.

Forester's journey and strategic insights into financial management within the gaming industry are powerful examples of the impact meticulous financial oversight combined with strategic thinking can have on a business's success.

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