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Experienced Casino Operators (ECO’s) verses Analysts by Brian Colwell

Brian Colwell Many years ago, in most modern, regulated jurisdictions, table game casinos were run by Experienced Casino Operators (ECO’s) who had grown up in the industry; almost all of whom had worked as dealers and made their way through the ranks into executive positions. This process enabled these managers to operate casinos by fully understanding the intricacies of the business thereby making operational decisions based on this hands-on experience.

Moving forward to the present day and we see more ‘Analysts’ in these higher operational positions including CEO’s, COO’s, GM’s etc armed not with casino experience, but rather business degrees and laptops, equipped with spreadsheets, graphs and accounting software.

The casino business has and remains a very intriguing industry where certain decisions are made that are quite distinctive and unique compared to most other industries. Whilst there is obviously a need for an analytical approach to operating casinos including socially & professionally accepted business practices, especially in the short term, is their lack of hands-on casino experience actually detrimental to the industry in the long term?

Two areas are of most concern.

Security & Integrity

In the ‘old’ days, table game protection and integrity was top of the list of casino operational policy & procedure. As part of this, casino management had supervisors positioned on almost every gaming table in order to, amongst other duties, monitor dealers and customers in order to deter, detect and report errors, procedure violations, theft and other illegal activity in order to protect the company’s assets, albeit not of these activities would have been and can never always be detected. Analysts, after studying the job description and performance of table game supervisors against the salaries paid, convinced operators that it was not cost effective to have so many supervisors monitoring the table games, therefore reducing this expense in order to increase profits. Onto the present day, table game supervisor numbers and positions have decreased to almost non-existence in order to reduce cost to company expenses i.e. salaries. This however brings up an interesting situation. The original analysis was conducted using tangible data available including the actual salary expenses as well as incident reports from the gaming department, surveillance etc. Once the decision was made to reduce the supervisory positions, there was much less tangible data to analyse as the business is much less aware of the errors, procedure violations, theft and other illegal activity. Using illegal activity specifically, history will show that most unlawful acts are discovered and reported by well trained gaming employees & supervisors directly from the gaming floor, duly supported by the Surveillance department, and the mere presence of these supervisors also act as a deterrent to these being attempted in the first place. Customers and employees who would not normally attempt such activity may in the modern case attempt them as they feel there is a much less chance of being caught.

The spinoff affect of this is the actual performance of gaming employees and supervisors. If table game security and integrity is no longer a top priority of the company, how then can they then expect dealers, supervisors and management to have it is a priority as part of their job description and when performing their duties? The result is that employees will become complacent i.e. reactive instead of proactive. The overall focus of supervising and monitoring the table games to ensure the security and integrity of the table games will be lost. There are obviously many experienced employees within the industry that still hold this quality at the top of their job list of important factors, but as these ‘old school’ employees leave the business, and are replaced by the more complacent, table game security and integrity will suffer and the business will be subjected to all sorts of negative actions. This situation must then surely be categorised under Risk Assessment & Management as the 'risk' is now greatly increased. What other measures are operators introducing in order to decrease this ‘risk’? If there was a major scam discovered purely because there was lack of supervision on the gaming tables, who will be held accountable... the Gaming Employee, Supervisor, Management, the Company Directors?

The above does not take into account the loss of reputation the company may also suffer as a result, which also falls under ‘risk’ and is immeasurable as well. Obviously, the introduction of certain systems and other modern technological equipment plus improved policies and procedures are reasons to reduce supervisor numbers, but surely should not be to the detriment of basic security and integrity. Can one say with any absolute certainty that reducing the supervisory positions is a positive for the business... and the industry as a whole?

The customer experience

Casino patrons have always enjoyed the personal aspect of the business, where table games played a major part. It is a unique opportunity for guests to interact with staff and other guests whilst enjoying the thrill of gambling in a friendly, fun and safe environment. Electronic Gaming Machines including slots are so advanced now that they pretty much run themselves without the need for any employees apart from a few technicians for preventative and general maintenance and the odd jackpot payout... with data downloaded and reports generated from the office and analysed from there. Technology including computer programs, electronic devices etc. were always going to infiltrate the industry, as this is the way of the world around us. Looking at the business from purely an analytical perspective including staff salaries, spend per person per area of gaming space, monitoring of customer play & subsequent rewards, security and integrity etc., it makes sense to operate more machines and less live gaming tables. Also, of the live gaming tables, and as mentioned above, there is less supervision and therefore fewer employees to interact with customers including entertaining them and assist them with their requirements i.e. basic guest relations and customer service. There are tangible figures available which prove that reduced employee numbers equates to increased profits, but what intangible effect does this impersonalised approach produce? How many customers are actually turned away from the lack entertainment through personalised experience?

The above are just two issues that have influenced the casino business over recent years, especially in modern, regulated jurisdictions. The main discussion point is...

As technology and analysts infuse the industry, what positive and negative effects will these have in the long term?

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  •  Shane: 

    Brian, thanks to you, individuals like myself enjoy our profession and hopefully look forward to many more years. What you say is true. Not far is the day when table games are electronically controlled, removing the need for even a "Trained and Qualified" dealer or even service Staff.

    A "DIY" Casino, with no importance tor personal interaction with customers.

    Today, one does not have to know the intricacies of the industry. Hey, any "TDnH" can be a Casino Operator. Example... LOL !!! ideal example is a president today !

    If the industry carries on in this manner the future is definitely uncertain for those seeking to make a career

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