Casino Management – have we grown a generation of box tickers
I’ve been working in Blackpool for the last three months, helping to set up and run the new Coral Island Casino. It’s a fantastic site – the rest of Coral Island has a throughput of about 5 million visitors per year, so the potential market for 20 B1 slots is huge, before you even consider table play. While recently recruiting to fill our GM vacancy, I’ve been working with Resorts Division MD Tony Gibbons, who was distinctly unimpressed with the quality of most of the candidates we saw. He told me, “I’ve worked across a lot of disciplines within the leisure industry, and many of the people we saw simply weren’t very good. A combination of a lack of energy with a culture of box ticking within the major operators seems to produce a certain type of person, one which I don’t really think is going to be helpful in taking the casino business forward. The faces on some of the people we saw when we told them we’d be going with the threshold door policy looked more like terror than anything else, and that’s why we’re still looking”.
I think there are a few points that come out of this statement. It’s certainly true that most casino managers have been in the business for a long time, and some clearly benefit from the last generation’s Peter principle – you keep getting promoted until you’re in a job that you aren’t very good at, where you stick – but these days, casino operators don’t tend to tolerate a low level of performance. Besides, some skills critical to good casino management can’t really be assessed in direct fashion in an interview scenario, such as customer PR and the ability to read what’s happening within the casino. We certainly had some very impressive candidates in for interview, but given that it’s a buyer’s market right now, we didn’t find the person who we felt was perfect in every department, and as usual with the Noble Organisation ,they don’t just want the best available, they want the best possible.
However, it’s increasingly clear that the modern breed of casino GM simply aren’t expected to spend the majority of their time on the casino floor. People we’ve interviewed told tales of off site regional meetings on a regular basis, as well as training away days that ate into their floor time. The true horror dawned on us when we heard one story of a manager who had failed to hit their margin target, and had received a series of emails with consequences spelled out, and no-one actually coming to site for months. That’s emails, not visits – in a company like Nobles, the first you’d know about the senior management having a problem with your percentage would be the regional guy on one shoulder and the MD on the other until everyone had a handle on what the problem was. The purpose of visiting, rather than just communicating, is to provide help and support – we’re all about trying to solve problems, not point fingers. A company like the Noble Organisation are certainly a demanding one to work for, but that goes at all levels – there’s no space for office dwellers at any level, and the site GM will see their boss visiting on site 50 plus times per year.
One hangover from the past in casino management candidates is certainly an obsession with security. Clearly it’s of critical importance in an environment with large potential payouts and liabilities as well as boxes full of uncounted cash, but there’s a sliding scale of risk vs cost of protection. The overriding fear of the threshold policy puzzled both Tony and I – why on earth would you want to slow down customers who are trying to come in and spend money? Yes, there’s a marketing benefit in knowing who your customers are, but if you don’t know your better customers well enough to be able to contact them, you’re not doing your job properly – and besides, serious players get picked up by virtue of the money laundering regulations. As for the rest – well – the end value of email, text and postal marketing campaigns is one for debate, but if the cost is turning away hundreds of people who don’t have ID or can’t be bothered to queue, I’ll take the risk. With Tony having been marketing director of Mecca Bingo, Stanley Casinos and Victor Chandler worldwide in the past, he’s well placed to judge the balance between superior customer data and easier customer access, and neither of us had any doubt whatsoever that threshold was the way forward. The usual counter argument put forward by casino managers is security, in knowing who you’re dealing with, but again, it’s risk vs reward. Betting shops don’t ask for ID for all punters, and they are dealing with far more volatile players in an environment with, generally, less experienced casino management.
Overall, I wouldn’t fully agree with Tony on the ability of casino managers. We saw plenty of traits that weren’t ideal, but the simple fact is that to run a casino, you do need a certain amount of casino experience, and in getting years of this experience it’s hardly surprising that some common traits emerge. The approach of the major operators, however, seems to encourage a certain mentality, if not a certain mediocrity – many of the practises seem to be aimed at raising the lowest common denominator of managers, rather than providing a platform to take advantage of personality, individuality and flair. We’re aiming for someone a little more open minded for our
site, and the way the Noble Organisation operate allows for that individuality. We’re still looking – if, reading this, our approach sounds like it’s up your street, check out our advert and we look forward to meeting you.
Article provide by Paul Sculper. Paul offers a consultancy service for existing and proposed casino projects both in the UK and overseas, based on 17 years working in betting and gaming in a variety of roles, working for both independent and PLC employers. For more information on Paul
Paul raises some interesting questions about Casino Management, Do you Agree or Disagree ?