Mary Kay Bean is leaving. For those of us at Bonus, her retirement on June 1 from the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) is momentous. The communications specialist has been the face and voice of the regulator in one of the most important US online casino marketplaces. So we decided to interview her before she left.
To gambling industry journalists, the MGCB spokeswoman was a first contact while researching articles – even if they weren’t solely about Michigan. She would always respond, even if there were no there there. She didn’t leave journalists hanging.
You knew where you stood with Mary Kay Bean.
Professional until the end, Mary Kay Bean informed Bonus that she’d agreed to an interview with Drew Ellis of PlayMichigan. So, she said, he’d have to publish his interview before she’d agree to subsequent coverage.
Bonus would have honored her request, even if Ellis weren’t a colleague. Catena Media owns Bonus and PlayMichigan.
(In journalism, a public relations professional adhering to exclusive interviews, embargo agreements, and so forth earns the PR pro respect from reporters. Violating that earns our ire, which Mary Kay Bean never did.)
Mary Kay Bean Wasn’t Always With MGCB
To those of us who cover online gambling, it can feel like Bean’s always been with the MGCB.
That’s probably because she was there for us, answering questions about Michigan’s iGaming marketplace launch on Jan. 22, 2021.
She was still providing answers on April 27, 2023, when Bonus asked how well PokerStars‘ union of Michigan and New Jersey online poker players was performing. PokerStars launched shared traffic on Jan. 1, 2023. Bean tapped MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams for that Bonus Q&A.
However, Bean was only with the MGCB for nearly nine years – beginning in August 2014.
Her professional life lasted more than 40 years.
While she’s spent that entire time working in Detroit, Bean’s worn many hats.
After she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1980 in communication studies from the University of Detroit Mercy, she worked as a newspaper reporter for five years. That paper, The Romeo Observer, ceased publication in 2015 – with the publisher blaming the internet for its demise.
However, Bean had already zigged when others zagged. In 1985, she started work in public relations at Detroit Edison, now DTE Energy. Then in 1998, she leaped into banking as a spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase.
While a casual observer may believe each career move involved a huge learning curve, Bean said that wasn’t the case.
Pulling a quote from her interview with Bonus below, Bean said:
Service is the thread that ties together the positions I’ve held in very different industries throughout my career.
Spoiler alert: Bean may take up a new vocation during retirement. Check out her last answer.
Bonus Q&A: Mary Kay Bean
Without further ado, here’s the Bonus Q&A with Bean. Bonus questions are in bold, and her answers are below.
You were a journalist. Why did you move into public relations?
Before entering public relations, I was the news editor of a weekly paper in Romeo, Mich. I moved to public relations when I went to Detroit Edison as a senior journalist in Employee Communications. One of my college professors had encouraged me to consider public relations, and I decided to pursue it after five years in the newspaper industry because there were many more career opportunities.
Did you choose your career, or did it pick you?
I entered public relations in 1985 when I joined Detroit Edison. I always loved writing, helping people, and problem-solving. These passions made me a good fit for a career in public relations.
What do you believe is your professional legacy? Why? Does that please you?
I believe knowledge should be shared. I hope my professional legacy is leaving my colleagues with training, knowledge, and tools that will help them succeed and further the mission of the agency through effective communication. Throughout my professional life, I’ve worked to share information that will help people.
MGCB and your previous companies seem quite different. Did it feel that way to you?
I previously worked in regulated industries, and the MGCB is a regulator so, yes, it is different. Service is the thread that ties together the positions I’ve held in very different industries throughout my career.
What’s your favorite career memory?
When the Board voted to authorize retail sports betting in March 2020, the MGCB drew the biggest crowd of reporters to one of its public meetings I’ve seen during my tenure. It was fun to set up a post-meeting joint interview with former Executive Director Rick Kalm and the print, radio, and TV representatives who attended the meeting.
What’s your funniest memory?
In the 1990s, I attended a private meet-and-greet event featuring the reigning Miss America at a club in Detroit. Some of my staid and seasoned colleagues were as awestruck as young men, which I found amusing.
What’s your most significant professional achievement? Why?
I earned my accreditation in public relations in 2012, and I consider it my most significant professional achievement. You must deliver a project presentation to a panel of accredited peers and pass a written test measuring your knowledge, skills, and abilities to earn an APR. It really helps you to approach public relations as science and art combined.
What’s been the most difficult situation in your career, and what do you think of it now?
I did a taped interview with a Wisconsin TV reporter about identity theft cases involving a bank employee. ID theft was new at the time. The reporter was one of the people who had been a victim, and it was a very difficult interview. It was challenging and good experience.
Was Michigan’s online casino launch a professional milestone?
The January 2021 launch of internet gaming and internet sports betting definitely was a professional milestone. I was responsible for both external and internal communications about launch, and I created a communication plan to complement what my MGCB colleagues were doing to facilitate launch. It was exciting and challenging, and I believe it was very successful.
To journalists, you’re the face of the MGCB. How does that feel?
I have always worked to provide clear and timely information to journalists and to convey the MGCB’s seriousness about the agency’s mission to protect the public and promote fair gaming in Michigan. As a reporter who covers the MGCB, I hope you’ll say I’ve been successful.
Looking at your LinkedIn profile, you seem like the first person to congratulate others on their professional achievements. How does it feel to be the one lauded now?
It’s nice to hear good things about your work. I have enjoyed my work throughout my career and sought to make a positive contribution to the organizations and communities I’ve served.
In college, your activity was with Women in Communications. Were there many women in communications?
I was president of my university’s chapter of Women in Communications Inc. as an undergraduate at University of Detroit. My involvement in WICI provided opportunities to attend conferences and sponsor outreach events, which helped me transition from college to career. I worked for a woman manager at Detroit Edison, and she and other women leaders in the department were role models for me.
When you joined MGCB in 2014, there weren’t many women in gaming. Is it meaningful to you that there are more women in gaming now?
I am glad to see more women in news, communications, utilities, financial services, and gaming. I have been a formal mentor to two MGCB employees, and I also helped a fellow APR candidate when we were preparing for the accreditation exam. I have served on several APR review boards for the Detroit chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, which requires both evaluation and coaching of candidates.
What else should we know about your professional legacy?
I worked for organizations that encouraged volunteerism, and I brought that spirit to the MGCB when I joined the agency. I organized several group volunteer activities in the years before the pandemic, and I received a recognition award for teamwork for my efforts.
What will you do on the first day of retirement?
My husband and I plan to take our Class C RV on the road now and then to visit family, friends, parks, and backroads in the US and Canada.
You seem to have spent your personal and professional life in Detroit. Is that where you’ll stay?
We are likely to stay in the Detroit area, but we also frequently visit Northern Michigan, West Michigan, and Chicago to see family.
I enjoy choral singing and have sung in church choirs for more than 30 years, and intend to continue. I also plan to get better at playing the guitar and bought a ukulele, which is small enough to take on RV trips. I also am a fan of theater, including amateur and professional performances. I enjoy attending the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada.
Are you going to write a book? If so, what’s it about?
If I write a book, I probably will return to my roots as a small-town newspaper reporter and editor.