Can You Fix Your Casino With The Same Tool? Not Likely!

I have a friend who often reminds me that if I create a problem with my hammer while woodworking, I can rarely fix it with the same tool.  Similarly, if I cut a piece of wood that’s too short, it’s difficult to use the same saw to cut it again and make it longer.  Don’t ask me why, but this is so true.

Unfortunately, I believe this theory applies only too well in gaming.  After working with properties from coast to coast, it’s very clear to me that casino management needs to learn that the same people and processes they used to create a problem won’t fix it.

You may be wondering what I mean by this and let me see if a couple of examples will make it more clear. 

If a property has poor morale and employees don’t support each other, I can often look at the leadership and see a similar pattern.  For example, I’m amazed at the number of executives who look me in the eye completely devoid of any facial expression and tell me that they are disappointed because the people on the floor just don’t smile. 

That’s a real shocker!  Employees fail to smile because they don’t have a role model to follow.  Or put a different way, they don’t have a leader who sets an example that they can pattern.  The role model or leader simply doesn’t understand that they are part of the problem and, for that reason, they aren’t likely to fix it, either.

Training offers another example.  When we do training at a property, the first line of resistance we face is the casino’s training department.  It’s often staffed with very talented people who are not given the tools to do their job in the most effective way.  But some casino managers believe they don’t need to bring in expensive outsiders to do training if the property already has a department for that.  After all, if the on-site trainers are doing their job, they don’t need us, right?

This is simply not true if you really want to fix the problem.  I have an associate degree in computer science and wanted to be a computer geek many years ago.  But when we have a technology glitch at work, I’m the first one to call a geek to get us up and running again.  Yes, we spend what could appear to be a significant amount per hour but it’s a better investment to have the expert do it once versus learning as we go.

Why do properties think they can fix issues that they have created with their own team?

One reason is because of people’s insecurity.  It’s true that at all levels of a property’s hierarchy, you have people who do a very good job but who also are insecure in their position.  This could be because management has made it clear that they could be terminated at a moment’s notice.  Another reason is the wonderful world of fiefdoms. Balkanization always gets in the way of progress.

Then there’s the tendency to fix a complex problem with a simple answer.  I know a property that has self-run “management retreats” to strategize and come up with ways to fix what ails it.  Why would driving somewhere away from work make the solutions magically appear?

I think I’ve made my point.  Now it’s time for some constructive suggestions.

Let’s focus on the retreat.  I’m not against getting away from the day-to-day humdrum for a different perspective, but to make the most of the scenery you may need a new bus driver or at least a guide.  Having an “outsider” as part of the meeting can provide several advantages.  This person can be the lightning rod to start the discussion that the group has been in fear of having.  An outsider often isn’t looking for a long-term career with the property.  It’s easy for him or her to ask the tough questions and if they’re good facilitators, that’s exactly what they will do.

Next, the outsider often is ignorant of the behind-the-scenes drama at the property and that’s a good thing.  The outsider comes from a more objective position and can see areas for improvement that some on the team would rather hide.  Sorry, but it’s true.

I’m not suggesting that consultants are the solution to all of a property’s problems. They are a resource that, when used properly, can help solve some of the difficulties that have been created by others. 

I understand the mindset that leads a property to try to fix problems with the very people or processes that caused them.  When I create a problem with a hammer in my shop, I will often hit it one more time with more force to see if that will fix it.  It never has to this day.  Maybe casino leaders now can see it may take some new tools to fix a problem or make the most of opportunities.

To read other articles by Martin Baird, go to

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.

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