In my Casino Journal column last month, I began to share what I have learned in my nearly 45-year career in the gaming industry.

I made the case for fun, listening to guests and team members, managing by wandering around, providing career paths instead of just jobs, building relationships in the player development area and using technology to improve the customer experience.

In this month’s column, I share seven more key learnings from a career in gaming spent watching, listening, challenging, questioning, and in many cases, screwing up.


  • Great customer service is the linchpin to casino success. When I talk “great customer service” here,I don’t mean getting most employees to smile, or be passably “nice” or follow a few service scripts and protocols.  No, I’m talking about the ability to hire for attitude and a “servant’s heart.”  I’m referring to a real commitment to service training and modeling difference-making service behaviors.  I’m talking about making service the most important thing in your organization. And that includes the often-forgotten focus of “being easy to do business with.”
  • Problem gambling and smoking will continue to be the gaming industry’s Achilles heels if they are not addressed honestly and directly. There are a few industry leaders taking on these issues with an enlightened, long-term perspective. Most gaming organizations cannot separate their financial self-interests to meaningfully deal with problem gambling and smoking.  They are afraid of losing “VIP revenue” with enlightened problem gambling policies, and “smokers’ gambling revenue” with significant non-smoking gaming space. That’s both socially and strategically weak.
  • Continuous learning and networking is the best thing an aspiring casino executive can do. I know what tools, conferences, people and events that I have found to be the most helpful in my own career development and success.  Yours may well be different; but I can say that, whatever they are, more knowledge and skills make you more valuable to both your employer and yourself.  And more networking makes you more easily marketable among a broader group of decision-makers, potential career sponsors and mentors.
  • Great casino marketing needs leadership, strategy, involvement of all departments, financial commitment and meaningful measurement. I’m sure there are other relevant aspects, but from my experience, these are the most critically important. Do you have a real marketing leader who moves the ball forward?  Are your department heads (or better yet, all of your employees) involved in the marketing process?  Do you put resources into your marketing commitment or try to do it “on the cheap?”  Are you really strategic or do you just tweak last year’s marketing plan?  And do you measure marketing results by what really matters, or do you really measure by what makes the general manager or the chief financial officer (or the tribal council, or the board, or the largest stockholders, or…) happy?
  • The formula for success in table games is simple. Focus on the player experience, providing maximum value and experimentation. Table game players that are comfortable and having a good time will play longer and come back more often. “Maximum value” is the delicate balance of value between the players, the dealers and the organization.  And “experimentation” refers to trying new things—new games, new promotions, new concepts and new environments.  Most table game departments have been stuck in a rut for too long worrying about staffing levels, hold percentages and game protection, when the table game business environment has been screaming “innovate!”
  • Indian gaming is a remarkable success story. I say this not because Native American gaming has fueled the success of my career and my consulting company, but because of what I have witnessed.  I have seen tribal economies energized by gaming.  I have seen countless Native Americans find great careers in gaming, often with little prior work experience.  I have seen the success of tribal gaming provide essential services for tribal members.  And I have witnessed tribes become some of the great innovators and risk-takers in the entire industry.  This is an amazing story of the power of gaming.
  • Casino players continue to say “let me win” and “let me play more” while casinos continue to squeeze their “time on device.” This has been my greatest learning in my entire career… players want to play and casinos increasingly want them to pay.  I believe there is a big price to pay for this conflict.  In fact, I believe we are already starting to pay it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my lifetime of learning.  I hope it makes your own career path just a little easier.