Many Casinos Are In A Real Rut Because They Think Golf Is More Fun

I just solved a little mystery.  I figured out the reason why casinos are stuck in the rut of doing what they have always done.  It’s because change is difficult and uncomfortable and golf is more fun. 

I recently was a presenter at a gaming conference in one of the many sunny, warm locations in our great country.  One morning in the lobby, I noticed a group of people from the conference who were waiting to go play golf.  It was 7:30 and they were all smiling and shaking hands.  You could tell it was going to be a glorious day.  I experienced a total disconnect.  The conference was scheduled to start at 9 a.m.  How were these people going to get to the course, play 18 holes, shower and be ready to learn from the conference in less than 90 minutes?

I can hear you chuckling that no meeting starts on time, especially conference workshops.  Well, my presentation started promptly at 9 a.m. with about half the seats filled.  As time went by – for approximately the next 30 minutes – people sauntered and struggled into the room.  You could see on many of their faces that 9 a.m. was way too early for a meeting.

I thought back earlier to the people in the lobby at 7:30.  They were happy and awake.  They were alive and ready for the day.  But the people who showed up late for the 9 a.m. session looked more like they were going to a blood letting.  After a couple of days, the answer came.  Golf is more fun!  This was an epiphany for me.  If you let people do what is fun, they will do it.

Now here is the challenge.   For far too many people, change and doing new things are hard work.  That’s not fun.  If you want your casino to be successful, it’s easy to pay lip service to the notion that “great guest service” is a top priority.  Your casino is ranked No. 1 in guest satisfaction by the local newspaper that you advertise heavily in.  Your guests love you.  But you acknowledge you can always do more.  I hear this from casino managers a lot, but when push comes to shove, what are people doing about it?  I think the answer could be that they are playing golf instead.

Think about the following quote for a minute:  ”Is a burning platform – a visible crisis – needed to impel an organization to move?”  I found this tidbit on the Internet and I think the answer is yes for many casinos.  For those of you who are not familiar with the burning platform concept, the idea is that people will not jump from one platform to another unless the one they’re standing on is on fire.  The person who wrote the line I found on the Internet added that for most people, it’s not enough to smell the smoke of the fire.  They need to feel the flames.

So I guess my question is this – will you, as casino leaders, wait until you are being burned by the flames of fierce competition before you start making needed changes and create new progress at your property? 

I know that golf can be much more fun than change.  I know that some people come up with great ideas on the golf course.  I know the fairways and greens can be a great place to develop long-term partnerships and agreements.  But some of your casinos are surrounded by flames.  You have competition from other casinos that don’t want to just do OK.  They want to own your market.  You have competitors across the country looking for ways to take a little revenue away from you.

What is stopping them?  Please don’t waste your breath talking about any of the “things” that make your casino better.  That is not a sustainable, competitive advantage.  For example, I can remember when none of the tribal casinos had golf courses.  Now most of them do or will soon.  I remember when their guests stayed at a Holiday Inn Express “in town” because the tribe didn’t have a hotel.  Now they have some of the nicest resorts in the country.

Competitive advantage will not be sustained by out-building other casinos.  If you want your casino to grow and prosper, you need to create more guest advocates and work at growing that number each and every day.  Your casino’s single focus needs to be on building advocates.  After all, guest satisfaction is fickle and it’s a waste of time and money to emphasize it.

For those of you who don’t know what guest advocates are and why they are critical to your casino’s long-term success, perhaps you should have teed off at 10:30 after my session!

Golf is fun, but you can enjoy amazing satisfaction from always working to make your casino better.  Work hard and your casino could become bigger and more profitable than you had ever dreamed.  That is wonderful.  But, like golf, you can always do better.

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.