The “green gambler” of the future will be a gambler who enjoys what other gamblers enjoy, but like the consumer who is realizing the long-term health benefits of organic foods, they will also want to enjoy themselves and their gambling experience in an eco-friendly manner. Casinos will not only be judged by cost, by their games and payouts, the quality of the dining and the entertainment they provide, but by how they provide them. It is an exciting time. New leaders in the industry are emerging with wonderful ideas about how to deliver a great experience, generate profits and save the environment at the same time.
As you drive up to my casino of tomorrow, you notice the entrance has some of the same plants and flowers and trees that you and your neighbors have at home. But do you realize that there is not only an aesthetic reason for doing this but a definite financial one as well? When you use plants that are indigenous to the climate you’re located in, where they are accustomed to the weather and local conditions, especially the average annual rainfall, they thrive, and this makes the job of watering them nearly obsolete.
Drive up a little farther and you see massive windmills in the distance. As you look closer you start to see signs inviting anyone to come and visit this wind and solar farm that is generating enough power to cover 45 percent of the casino’s annual electricity needs. Growing within and around the installation are the organic vegetables and fruits used in the restaurants. This mixed-use cooperative farm also has helped educate an entire workforce about how to build, produce energy and farm in a more natural and, ultimately, a cheaper and better way.
Now you are finally at the valet, who asks if you would like to offset the auto emissions generated by your trip to the property as part of the valet fee. Some of that money pays for certified emissions offsets and some of it is a new revenue stream for the casino. The valet also asks if you will need to plug in your vehicle so it can charge up while it is in the parking deck and you’re enjoying your stay. Because the property is generating its own electricity, this is something it can offer for free or as a complimentary without negatively affecting its energy costs.
As you walk through the property toward the front desk and registration you will notice the natural lighting coming through strategically placed skylights.
As an industry, the first time we saw this was at the new Turtle Creek Casino in Michigan, operated by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians. Turtle Creek has a “green” roof: a skylight the length of a football field that reduces the need for floor lighting by 50 percent. GM Rich Bailey says this approach seems to be working. A year after opening, profit per slot machine is up 20 percent, and the new casino is drawing customers from a larger area - twice the geographical radius of the old casino it replaced. Indoors, a pressurized mechanical system makes the gaming floor less smoky. In short, the casino belies the stereotype of the dark, dingy, hazy, “we-don’t-want-the-client-to-know-what-time-it-is-on-the-gaming-floor” design. It is a cost-effective energy conservation measure that also takes the aesthetics of a property into consideration and is absolutely part of the casino of the future.
'TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE'Which brings me to a point about CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip and the way in which they innovated by bringing on an “executive lighting consultant,” a company called Illuminating Concepts based in Farmington Hills, Mich. CityCenter is the first gaming resort to have a company serve in this capacity, underscoring the vital role that specialists like IC can play in coordinating, managing and implementing project-wide lighting packages that can span even the 17 million square feet of CityCenter. No small feat. Over the course of the project’s development lifespan, IC managed, directed or collaborated with 17 other lighting designers and consultants. Whereas in most projects the lighting design, integration, procurement and documentation work are awarded to a number of partners and distributors, the visionaries at CityCenter saw the value and ultimate success in having one firm manage nearly the entire process.
“We’ve found this to be a differentiator for our company,” says Ron Harwood, IC’s president and founder. “There can potentially be a disconnect between a designer’s vision and the logistical, practical application of a contractor’s bidding and construction process. To satisfy both the grandeur of the designer’s visualization and the less glamorous world of codes, standards, specifications and electrical engineering, we brought the entire spectrum in-house.”
“Executive Lighting Director” is definitely a position found within our green casino of the future because it blends vision with procurement, style and efficiency.
Another position found in our casino of tomorrow is one based on the unique grouping of volunteers who make up the “green team” for our property. They are tasked to come up with new, creative and innovative ways to enhance sustainability and eco-friendliness. Ultimately, there will be someone who is tasked with leading all such initiatives, either at the property or the company level. This will be the chief sustainability officer.
According to Jeff Dean, a senior professional in supply management and head of purchasing at Kah-Nee-Ta High Desert Resort and Casino in Warm Springs, Ore., and the captain of his Green Team, “triple bottom line” - “people, planet, profit” - is the new benchmark for quality and efficiency. LED lighting, LEED-certified buildings, solar and wind power and the role of CSO will be in the forefront, he says.
As you continue your walk through our casino, you notice how our electronic gaming machines have changed. What was at one time a simple slot machine is now a server-based game linked between the player’s online account, property account and mobile gaming account. On tomorrow’s green gaming floor the casino actually owns the players’ experience universally. The more EGMs out there, the more money is saved, as they will cost less to operate, translating into greater profitability.
One of the initial goals of a new organization called the Sustainable Gaming Standards Committee is to increase eco-awareness at this vital front-line point of sale: the EGM. The committee is close to finishing its first compliance standard and has gotten lots of great feedback. The standard will cover energy efficiency and emissions reduction, sustainable materials, recycling, innovation in manufacturing, social sustainability and diversity and additional environmental benefits. It is currently being drafted by the Leonardo Academy, a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to advancing sustainability by leveraging innovative tools and information to motivate competitive markets. The standard is aiming for a 25 percent reduction in EGM energy used within the first year and a 50 percent reduction in the energy used by the machines within five years. During the first full year the committee has been in place, all major slot manufacturers have met or exceeded the 25 percent goal for energy reduction.
IGT, among others, is a contributor to the standard. “In the future, our machines may be scored using these new standards and will be compared to our competitors for sustainability,” says Shelle Murach, a public relations representative for IGT and a member of the company’s Green Team.
CityCenter, the industry’s largest sustainable development to date, is also in the vanguard. They worked with a vendor to develop a new slot machine base that diverts heat from the front of the machines to heat other areas of the property. Similarly, CityCenter’s cogeneration plant has increased energy efficiency by around 30 percent by pulling waste heat from energy to satisfy the resort’s domestic hot water needs.
CityCenter co-owner MGM Resorts International also has retrained close to 10,000 workers to enter tomorrow’s “green” workforce. Doing this helps out their economic bottom line, for sure, but also ensures there will be people skilled in sustainable development for years to come.
Casinos today usually have building management systems, but they’re used to run the facility, not identify areas for improvement. A company called Energy Network Operations Center, or EnerNOC, endeavors to deliver energy savings to customers by leveraging the power of technology and providing energy management applications. EnerNOC’s SiteSMART application pulls BMS data into a Network Operations Center, analyzes it and identifies savings opportunities. Across programs, a casino can generate substantial new revenues this way, according to Sarah McAuley, senior communications manager for EnerNOC.
In the end, the savings generated by using creativity and ingenuity in pursuit of energy sustainability leads to an improved customer experience and an improved workforce experience and can contribute to new profits going forward even in times of flat or declining revenue. And we can actually make customers more comfortable by optimizing energy usage.
Over the past few years we have seen what green can mean for some of our properties, but it’s not enough. We need to do a better job as an industry both in implementing more energy conservation measures and also talking about the initiatives that we do complete. The more we can all understand about what’s out there and what can be done, the faster this industry will be able to thrive in this new economy.
Funny thing is, you don’t need to wait until 2020, or even 2012, because a lot of these initiatives are in place already, and the experts are out there to help your team reach its sustainability goals. The challenge for operators will be finding that right balance at the beginning so they can enjoy some short-term paybacks while getting to see how well their decision to move toward green is working out over the long term. A shorter time to ROI should make them want to explore more options.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric Hansel is chairman of the Sustainable Gaming Standards Committee and founder of EGM Green. EGM Green, headquartered in New Jersey, designs and manufactures eco-friendly casino tables, gaming equipment and furniture and also provides LEED services and green consulting to the industry. Hansel is a board member of his local branch of the United States Green Building Council. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.