Imagine walking into your favorite casino in the near future and sitting down at an eco-friendly casino table. As you begin to ask yourself what is an eco-friendly poker table, you notice that there is natural light coming through the ceilings, and you can actually tell that it is daytime. After playing at your favorite energy efficient slot machine, you head up to your room for a nap before going out. Upon arrival at your room, you see a sign in the room that talks about some of the green initiatives the property has undertaken. This is different than the usual “save a towel” sign, this sign talks about how the property generates all of its hot and cold water in its cogeneration plant and how it powers all (electric) maintenance vehicles with a solar power charging station. It talks about the geothermal system that provides a constant climate by tapping into the area of earth hundreds of feet below where temperature is pretty constant.
This may seem far off, but there are casinos with these initiatives in place all over the country. For instance, The Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino has changed its entire maintenance vehicle fleet over to electric, and is in talks to power them with a solar charging station. According to Barona GM Rick Messura, “We do a good job of researching prior to purchase and implementation, which helps to ensure success and ROI for our green efforts.” This is the sort of approach that works in every other arena, so why not in the green realm? The Barona is joined by many others in the pursuit of saving the environment while at the same time boosting profits and decreasing costs.
At the Potawatomi Nation’s Fire Lake Grand Casino, geothermal is the green initiative of choice. The facility uses two ponds on the property to heat and cool the casino using the Earth’s natural resources to save energy and help the environment. During the summer, the ponds help cool the casino by using the earth to cool the water as it passes through the closed loop system. By using this system, Fire Lake Grand Casino is able to cool the 1,800 square foot building. With a below ground closed loop system, there is no chemical evaporation in the air and no lasting effects on the environment. Property GM Steve Degraffenreid told me something that I haven’t heard much, but that makes perfect sense. “You have to toot your own horn when it comes to green initiatives.”
This notion of tooting your own horn seems to be lost on most when we talk (market) about socially responsible issues. There seems to be some component of guilt associated with this based on the many conversations I have had with casino operators. It just doesn’t seem OK to talk about the good we are doing. This notion of altruism is an old one, but one that stands strong. The problem with this is that the industry is in a state of flux. Revenues are down, and these initiatives are good not only for the financial bottom line but also for what is known as “The Triple Bottom Line.”
The Triple Bottom Line is made up of what is good for your property financially, socially and environmentally. “People, Planet and Profit” is a good way to describe this. Wikipedia does an excellent job of defining Triple Bottom Line. “The concept of Triple Bottom Line demands that a company's responsibility be to 'stakeholders' rather than shareholders. In this case, 'stakeholders' refers to anyone who is influenced, either directly or indirectly, by the actions of the firm. According to the stakeholder theory, the business entity should be used as a vehicle for coordinating stakeholder interests, instead of maximizing shareholder (owner) profit.” It’s not that maximizing shareholder profit is not important, but that shareholder profit should not come at the expense of stakeholders.
These examples of sustainability within the casino industry do not stand alone. Jenna Morton, co-owner of The N9NE Group, which runs the restaurants, lounges and the pool at The Palms, explained what is done with used cooking oil. About a year ago, Morton converted her car so that it will run with this oil. While this is a small-scale solution to a larger problem, Morton mentioned that, “The Las Vegas Regional Transportation Commission will retrofit one of their buses to run on the oil within a year, with the goal being to change all buses over after that.” Can you even imagine a Las Vegas devoid of bus fumes?
As sustainability starts to become the norm within the industry, what else will we see? What other innovations are coming down the pike? Will the casino industry become so proficient at efficiency that it starts to open up new revenue streams? These questions and others will be covered monthly in this column. If your property has a green team, is involved in sustainable innovation, or has corporate social responsibility initiatives worth talking about, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Green Thought: “The development of a sustainability standard for slot machines provides a greater opportunity for both buyers and manufacturers of slot machines to make a big contribution to environmental improvement,” said Michael Arny, president of Leonardo Academy and former chairman of the LEED for EB (Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings).