Commissioner Trang To
How did you get your start in the California gaming industry?
I’d been retired from the Sheriff’s Department for about two years, and one day I received a call from the Governor’s Office asking if I was interested in the job. I knew nothing about it, but when I heard “law enforcement,” I perked up my ears… Long story short, my name was brought up through the Asian community in Greater Sacramento that I used to work with… I was very happy being retired at the time, so talked to my family, and they said to go for this opportunity and see what happens. So I met with Chairman [Jim] Evans, and I thought “Wow, what an interesting job!” because I knew nothing about California and being able to gamble.
What are you most proud of when it comes to your career in law enforcement?
I don’t know if there’s one thing I can say I’m most proud of… [My father] was a chief of police in one of the provinces in Saigon. I thought I’d like to follow in my dad’s footsteps. That was a moment that I looked back and said: “hey, my dad was my role model, my mentor.” So that’s one, and there are so many proud moments. You can call it every day, we’d go out and service the community, we helped people in solving their problems, whether it be domestic violence, whether it be child abuse, gang violence… And then moving up the ladder in the department. It’s a huge department, one of the biggest agencies… and having my dad pin my badge on every time I got a promotion. The ultimate was when I made captain, as a commander.
What do you enjoy most about being a commissioner?
We make our decision based on integrity, based on fairness, transparency…In the GCA [Gambling Control Act] hearings, for instance, we get limited information, so we want to give people a fair shake. Here’s your chance to tell us why you’re suitable. We take that very seriously because we know people’s jobs and lives are at stake. They have families that they have to support. We truly believe in that, and we want to do the best job that we can. That’s one part of what’s rewarding to me. The other part is crafting regulations that will advance the industry and make it better. I always think we can do things better, I’m never satisfied with the status quo. I always believe we want to move the agenda forward, and if we hear or notice something, let’s put our heads together… and make the industry better than what it is now.
What do you think is the most challenging thing about our industry?
Challenging? Every day there’s challenges: regulations, how we do business, how we communicate, all those things are challenging. I look at not the challenges, but how do we solve them? How do we move forward and solve these issues?… Listen to the industry experts, listen to the stakeholders, everybody involved in this. If we work together to overcome the challenges, I don’t think we can go wrong.
Are there any experiences or stories you could share that speak to the positive impact that California card rooms have had on your community?
We want to get people working; we want them to be able to support their family in a comfortable way. When all people are working, the economy thrives. I believe the industry has a great impact on the community in providing jobs by providing entertainment for the public. Also the charity efforts of the industry, I know you guys do a whole lot of charity, working with non-profit organizations, I appreciate that a lot, knowing that the people in the industry do that. Knowing that they’re not just in the industry to make profits, but also to give back to the community.
If there was one thing you could change about the industry what would it be?
My whole philosophy is to help the industry as much as I can, with what I know, the job duties that I have. If we work together, the agencies and stakeholders, there’s nothing we can’t do to help the industry move forward and help it grow.
What advice would you give to those who would like to establish a career in public service?
I’ve been in public service all my life, and I think it’s very important to be able to make a difference in someone’s life. If you’re going to serve the public in some capacity, I think it has to come from the heart…My advice is to do it because you’re passionate about contributing to the community and people’s lives.
Who has been your biggest inspiration and why?
Well, that’s easy: my parents! My dad has been an inspiration to me, for many, many years, and my mom as well. My dad passed away last year from cancer. I’m so proud of that man. He’s been my mentor, he’s talked with me every step of the way… I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for [my parents] sacrificing what they did. They sacrificed a lot. They’re my biggest inspiration.
Sounds like your dad led by example… like you wanted to follow in his footsteps.
Yes, every step of the way. You talk about integrity? That man, he was the Chief of Police in one of the provinces in Saigon, and that’s a big city, where if he were to be crooked, we’d be millionaires now. When he came over, he fled Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in 1975, he came over with no money… It was amazing, he stood for integrity. And that’s why he’s my inspiration. You can’t beat integrity and honesty, and I try to live my life that way.
What is one fun fact about you that very few other people know?
I don’t know if it’s fun or not, but I don’t like to talk about myself, I’m a very private person… I’ll talk good about everybody else, especially my family. I’ll do anything for my family, my wife, my son, my mom and dad. I’m almost embarrassed to talk about myself, I’m very private. I don’t know if that’s a fun fact, but it’s a fact about me.