I have profound respect for all casino workers, but this column is going to be devoted to another group of the unsung--gaming regulators.

The casino industry is replete with unsung heroes and heroines. You can choose from a long list, starting with the people who park the cars, serve the food, deal the games and clean the rooms while maintaining a sincere smile for all those guests who come upon them in wave upon wave.

These heroic staff people deserve recognition from those of us who work in and around this industry, largely because they are the very face of gaming. When they succeed, we succeed. And for most of them, success is difficult to measure. They are not-and never will be-among the highest-paid employees, and they are often invisible to the very people they serve. Yet, try to imagine a world in which they functioned with surliness, with inattentiveness or, worse, with hostility. This industry would not last a day under those conditions.

I have profound respect for all those workers. But this column is going to be devoted to another group of the unsung. This group of people can expect little praise when they perform their jobs well, but they can count on carping critics who will second-guess them at every turn-irrespective of whether their jobs are performed well or poorly.

I am referring to regulators, those appointed by governors and other political leaders, as well as those who are hired to perform the difficult tasks assigned to them. During the course of my career, I have had the privilege of knowing hundreds of them. I have worked with them under the media glare at public meetings, and I have worked with them in their quiet cubicles and offices, where so much of the actual work gets done. In states ranging from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to Ohio and beyond, these interactions have gained my respect for them, and that respect only grows as time goes on, and more and more states legalize casinos.

Clearly, the most difficult part of being a regulator is juggling conflicting goals, and dealing with conflicting pressures. They are told to perform their jobs quickly and well, and that charge comes from a variety of sources, ranging from labor to business. Add to that chorus the voices of political leaders, industry officials and, yes, from attorneys appearing before these regulatory agencies.

Many states have endeavored to insulate regulators from such pressures. For example, they are often appointed to fixed terms that are not tied to the terms of those who appoint them. They often cannot participate in the political process; and in many states they serve in a full-time capacity, which enhances their autonomy by making them independent of the need to find additional sources of income.

Still, no system is perfect, but regulators largely recognize that they must resist such pressures, and exercise their best judgment.  For this we can count on the fact that most appointees are of the highest caliber of professional. Quite simply, they get it.

Regulators largely recognize that the decisions they make today will have implications for decades-and generations-to come. That is a profound and serious responsibility. Their critics have a much narrower agenda, for the most part.  Just think about the implications of a licensing decision. Regulators must often pick one location over another and one operator over another. Such decisions will affect investors, communities, families and businesses-today and 30 years from now.

As one attorney who has had the privilege of appearing before regulators, I am grateful for such wisdom, and I respect the process they undertake in making their decisions-even when such decisions do not go in the way I had hoped.  As we enter 2013, I thought it was quite appropriate to openly pay homage to such dedicated officials. I am glad they are there.