After 35 years, longtime San Manuel employees still love their jobs

After 35 years, longtime San Manuel employees still love their jobs

  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
August 14, 2021 10:10 PM
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Other

Dianna Scina had a plan.

She’d been working at the San Manuel Casino since she was young, starting as a bingo floor clerk. When she went to college to become a teacher, Scina figured her days at San Manuel were numbered.

But the plan had a mind of its own.


Dianna Scina, 35 years at San Manuel

Scina, currently San Manuel’s director of experiential marketing, couldn’t leave the Tribal community she’d become so attached to and loved so much.

“Growing up at San Manuel, the culture has always been a culture of giving,” Scina says. “There’s just a sense of pride among employees. You just feel like you’re part of a higher purpose. The tribe does so much for the community and its employees.”

Scina is one of five employees who have worked at the casino, operated by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in Highland, California, since it opened as a bingo hall in 1986. To put that in perspective, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January 2020 the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.1 years.


A rendering of San Manuel’s $760 million expansion

More than 40% of San Manuel employees have worked there for at least five years.

Jasmine Takeshita is a relative newcomer at San Manuel, having started as talent acquisition director four years ago. During her first interview with the company, she learned about the long-term employees and thought, “This is the place I want to be.”

Four years into her tenure, Takeshita still marvels at the staff’s approach to each workday.


Jasmine Takeshita, 4 years at San Manuel

“There is just a feeling of excitement and pride, and when you walk into the heart of the house that is the casino, you just feel that people are happy,” says Takeshita. “They enjoy what they’re doing and it’s really hard not to just have that engulf you, and to feel that energy. You can really tell that people take pride in what they do.”

Tom Hedrick was 16 when, like Scina, he started working at San Manuel’s bingo hall. He’s been a frontline team member, a table games supervisor, and managed slot operations. Currently the vice president of Tribal community services, Hedrick has grown up at San Manuel, being employed by the tribe while graduating from high school and college, getting married and having two daughters.

One of the reasons Hedrick stayed with the Tribal enterprise is because the oft-used phrase ‘extended family’ is more than just a slogan at San Manuel. During the COVID-19 pandemic when the casino closed, Hedrick was amazed when the Tribe elected to keep paying employees.


Tom Hedrick, 35 years at San Manuel

“You’re taking money out of your bank meant for the longevity of your tribe and paying your team members to stay home,” Hedrick says. “It was done for the safety and health of everybody. It’s much easier to furlough and lay people off and not deal with it. They treated us well.”

Casinos, like other service-oriented industries, have scrambled to recruit new workers and bring back former employees. Because of a $760 million expansion, new employees are in demand at San Manuel, especially for the recent first phase opening that includes a larger gaming space, a 24-hour restaurant, and new retail shops.

During recruitment drives and job fairs, Takeshita tells prospective employees about Scina and Hedrick and how their jobs became sustaining and rewarding careers.

“But it’s not only the people who have been with us for 35 years, it’s those who have been with us for five years and really developed themselves and created a strong career here,” Takeshita says.

After 35 years, it would be natural for any employee to slow down a bit or consider retirement. But Scina and Hedrick both are embracing new challenges.

Hedrick started as vice president of tribal community services less than a year ago, and the new role allows has given him a renewed sense of responsibility.


The San Manuel Casino opened as a bingo parlor in 1986 and expanded into a 100,000 sq ft casino in 1994.

“We get to represent the Tribe and we’re giving back to them by creating services for the Tribal citizens in the community and their families,” Hedrick says. “I’m excited about coming to work. It’s rewarding to come to work. It’s so gratifying. You get to serve and give back to the people who have treated us so well over 35 years.”

Scina is looking forward to the completion of the casino’s expansion, which will include for the first time a hotel on property and a 3,000-seat entertainment center. For a woman who started at Tribal property that was little more than a bingo hall when she was in her teens, it’s been a breathtaking and rewarding journey, with no end in sight.

“After 35 years, I feel like it’s just starting,” Scina says.

Rege Behe is lead contributor to CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at Please follow @RegeBehe_exPTR on Twitter.