While the staunchly anti-gaming coalition would disagree with me, the casino industry has done numerous good things for its customers and the communities that it serves.

Here are just a few of those contributions:

  • It has provided hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs, often in communities that desperately need them;
  • It has donated millions of dollars to local and national charities;
  • It has utilized tens of thousands of (mostly) local companies to purchase the needed goods and services to operate its businesses;
  • It has brought first class entertainment to many rural communities and underserved metropolitan markets;
  • It has paid billions of dollars in federal, state and local taxes;
  • It has developed numerous business executives in numerous business categories;
  • It has brought restaurants and other culinary experiences to communities at very reasonable prices, sometimes even as loss leaders; and
  • It has given people a true “fun night out.”

I could of course go on and on about the significant good deeds accomplished by the gaming industry and the numerous casinos that are a part of it. But in my mind, these are all easy to see and most reasonable industry observers would acknowledge them. This column will focus on highlighting the little appreciated, often unnoticed, but still difference-making things that some forward-thinking casinos have done, for which they have received little recognition. What follows is my list of underappreciated casino initiatives:

Free ATM—Although very rare, a few casinos do not charge their customers to access money from the on-property ATM machines. Most casinos view this as insanity because they likely make a few million bucks a year off these ATM fees. But the casinos that have waived these fees have done so now for a long time.  Methinks they have discovered something significant.

Real non-smoking gaming sections—Almost all casinos have non-smoking gaming areas (and in some jurisdictions it is mandated to be all non-smoking).  I am not referring here to casinos that make a gesture to non-smoking gaming space, but those that make a commitment to it… you know, where the space is large and the area has a full assortment of gaming options, not just a paltry, obligatory few. Where the smoke handlers work, where non-smoking is enforced, where secondhand smoke doesn’t waft over from the huge, adjacent smoking sections. These casinos are on the leading edge of a societal trend and are attracting customers who they might not otherwise get (non-smokers).

Management that really appreciates and reaches out to customers and employees—Here I am not talking about customer research or employee recognition efforts, no matter how effective they may be. No, here I’m talking about senior casino managers who walk the casino floor chatting with customers and employees on busy weekends… who might reward a top employee by working four hours of their shift for them; who personally host top players at VIP events; and  who routinely eat in the EDR with frontline employees.  This management makes a difference, without a “program,” without a “mission statement,” without a “mandate” from the CEO.

A commitment to the handicapped—All casinos have handicapped rooms, handicapped access, handicapped parking and handicapped transportation. But a very small number of casinos have made a commitment to the handicapped and are actually “handicapped friendly.”  These progressive few realize how important the handicapped are to their business and how that segment is growing. Their casinos will feature free (and many) motorized wheelchairs, attentive and sensitive employees, special services and a clear message that, “We Care.”  Powerful stuff.

Loose slots—This may be the most controversial casino issue of all, with most casino operators having a not so generous view of what is loose, think that having just a few loose games is loose enough, think that players can’t tell loose from tight or simply don’t care about it. No, here I’m talking about the “progressive few” casino operators who understand their players don’t want their money taken too fast and just want to play for a while; who understand that unless a casino is always full, why wouldn’t you let patrons play longer and have a better experience; who realize that “you can win more here (really)” is a powerful brand.  Funny how a casino’s long-term commitment to “loose” is highly correlated with being a market share leader.

Yes, casinos, you have done some great things. But I salute the operators that have done the rare and the underappreciated. You have done the quietly spectacular, that has made me proud to be a part of this crazy business.