It’s no secret that the gaming industry is ahead of the curve in a number of community impact issues such as diversity hiring, charitable giving and volunteerism.
However, what may come as a surprise given the 24-hour nature of the casino business is that gaming facilities have also set the pace when it comes to the establishment of energy- and environment-saving operational efficiency practices. Indeed, according to a recent study sponsored by the American Gaming Association (AGA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center, 93 percent of gaming industry respondents have comprehensive recycling and energy efficiency programs, 50 percent higher than the overall private sector.
As one would expect, maintaining these standards means casino resorts are constantly experimenting with and adding new practices and technologies that improve overall resource and systems efficiency, creating a win-win situation for the operator, local community and increasingly concerned customers. What follows are some case studies and new product launches that helped a casino department operate in either a more environmentally-friendly or cost-saving fashion.
Save your energy
Lighting and HVAC systems are two areas gaming properties can better manage for better energy efficiency and greater profits
BY ASG ENERGY
A constant stream of flashing lights, buzzing slot machines and a ricocheting ring of winning jackpots draw in millions of casino guests each year. Many casinos offer more than just a gaming experience as well, with lodging, spas, golf courses and pools on site.
It’s no surprise, then, that casinos are also big energy users, often operating 24 hours a day in areas with extreme climates and temperature fluctuations.
Casino gaming is a business where the odds of winning in gambling favor the house to pay for the facilities, staff and overhead as well as generating profits for the organization. There is a strategy given to the design of casinos, from the obvious “no clocks” in plain sight to the pattern on the carpets, the flow of guests through the casino floor to reach guest rooms, entertainment and dining, all with the idea of keeping customers there longer and spending more.
However, casinos are giving away house money by not implementing two effective energy savings strategies that pay for themselves in three years or less. Therefore, implementing LED lighting and optimizing the HVAC systems for casinos are smart bets for owners and operators.
LED-ING THE WAY
Casinos need to foster a well-lit and safe environment for a variety of reasons. According to industry experts, guests who enjoy gambling seem to prefer well-lit gaming tables, lobbies and pedestrian walkways.
Casino security professionals also benefit from LED lighting as casinos typically have a significant number of closed circuit video cameras and LED lighting provides superior color rendering benefits that can help to catch cheats. LEDs also improve the capabilities of facial recognition software as well.
Additionally, LED lighting technology can help save energy in a variety of lighting fixtures and video gaming systems. Casinos have entire floor spaces devoted to hundreds and hundreds of slot machines, each consuming energy at an alarming rate. For example, Park MGM Las Vegas (formerly the Monte Carlo Casino), spends a reported $5 million a year in energy costs, much of it attributed to lighting. According to the EPA, replacing the conventional existing lighting in the Park MGM slot machines to LED lamps provided an 85 percent energy usage savings that is incremental profitability. That kind of energy savings can extend to the entire facility by using LED lighting in recessed, cove and track fixtures—it can save up to 70-90 percent of all lighting energy costs.
LEDs have an average life expectancy of 50,000 hours, therefore maintenance costs will be significantly reduced. Harrah’s Rincon Resort and Casino in California replaced over 7,000 incandescent, halogen and fluorescent lamps with energy-efficient LED lighting, saving over $200,000 per year. The entire project cost $362,000 and installation took place over three weeks with a 1.8 year payback on the investment.
In addition, LED lighting can reduce the overall cost to an operational budget (OPEX) in several ways:
- LED lighting is approximately 70 percent more efficient than other forms of lighting such as traditional fluorescent lights and can last up to 10 times longer, reducing maintenance hours and improving inventory control.
- LED lights are mercury free and therefore do not contain hazardous materials. As a result, they don’t require special handling or disposal fees.
- LEDs have a long life. An LED lasts 50,000 hours, or 5.7 years on average, if running in a casino 24/7. LEDs eliminate replacement and labor costs for that time period.
- LEDs often come with energy company rebates.
UP ON THE ROOF…
Given that air conditioning and air handling systems typically account for 40-60 percent of a building’s electricity costs, casino operators constantly search for systems and technologies that can provide savings through better operational efficiency.
The practice of improving HVAC efficiency is called “retro-commissioning,” and ASG Energy now offers Dynamic Chiller Optimization that takes retro-commissioning to the next level by incorporating dynamic variables that impact energy utilization and load balancing across the entire cooling eco-system within a facility.
This platform has shown to save 15-40 percent of cooling energy spent across a variety of implementations, and will maximize efficiency in chiller systems without impacting the thermostat settings, disrupting operations, requiring new HVAC equipment and upfront capital costs. Features of this new technology include: dynamic chilling optimization, non-intrusive implementation, remote monitoring, flexible BMS/HMI interface integration and an automated response system.
This “clean-tech solution” is ideally suited toward facilities that have large central cooling systems with a chilled water loop and installed chiller capacity of over 200 tons, as these types of environments can greatly benefit from this optimization.
Casino executives and CFOs are always looking for cost saving initiatives, but the hurdle is how to fund them out of current cash flow. Fortunately, there are many financing options related to green investments and some include no cash outlay and the casino still incurs a utility savings.
ASG partners offer Energy Service Agreements (ESA) that utilize the energy savings to pay for energy upgrades avoiding up-front capital investment and keeping the project off the balance sheet. The monthly ESA payments are fully funded out of the savings created by the energy savings; however, the ASG Energy financing partner only allocates about 80 percent of the savings to the project payback, the other 20 percent is retained by the client to reduce ongoing operating costs.
Additionally, ASG Energy has partners that also offer traditional leasing, financing alternatives.
ASG Energy a comprehensive solutions provider for energy savings using LED lighting, HVAC optimization, solar power and energy storage, with a successful track record of managing energy reduction initiatives and installations for several Fortune 500 companies throughout the U.S. Visit www.asgenergyllc.com for more information.
All on green
Pokagon Band and Four Winds Casinos outline key green initiatives across all properties
BY THE POKAGON BAND OF POTAWATOMI INDIANS
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and its Four Winds Casinos are pleased to announce several important green initiatives have been implemented at all four casinos, their restaurants, hotel and Pokagon Band government offices.
Matt Wesaw, chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, recently outlined the tribe’s commitment to conservation and recycling efforts. “The Skebgyak Zhetthken [‘Do it Green’ in the Potawatomi language] campaign signifies a commitment to our Mother Earth,” Wesaw said. “As of March, we eliminated Styrofoam and single-use plastics like straws, cups and cutlery in our Pokagon offices. On April 1, we eliminated plastic water bottles, individual coffee creamers and disposable K-cups. Plastic straws and coffee stirrers have been replaced with a biodegradable 100 percent vegetable fiber product, and all employees are encouraged to carry a reusable cup and mug.”
Wesaw said citizens and staff have access to two community gardens and can take part in a government-wide composting program that in 2018 diverted nearly 700 pounds of food waste from landfills and turned it into rich compost soil.
According to Wesaw, extensive recycling and reuse efforts have also been implemented at all casino hotels and restaurants. “Four Winds Casinos COO Frank Freedman has led his team to an impressive campaign to cut down on the waste that is naturally generated at an operation of our size.”
Freedman explains the initiatives implemented in all sectors of the operation. In the hotel, rather than discarding used hotel amenities (soaps, shampoos, body washes and plastic packaging), Four Winds recycles them. “We pay an annual fee for a company to recycle and regenerate these products—it’s that important to us as an organization,” Freedman said. “As an example, all used bars of soap and containers are placed into a collection bin. Once it’s full, we ship the container to Clean the World, an organization in Orlando, Fla., which recycles its contents. Since 2014, when we started this, we’ve recycled over 12,000 pounds of waste which has been used to create over 40,000 bars of soap and nearly 10,000 bottles used in hygiene kits for those in need.
Other green initiatives include:
- Partially depleted toilet paper rolls and lightly damaged linens are donated to the Center for the Homeless in South Bend, Ind.;
- All mattresses, once they leave the hotel, are recycled. To date, 179 king and 142 queen mattresses have been recycled; and
- The Go-Green Program, where guests staying more than one night are encouraged to reuse towels and bed linen.
FOOD FOR MORE
Within their restaurants, Freedman points to another program that Four Winds supports which delivers food to Meals for Michiana. Operated through Cultivate Culinary School and Catering, Meals for Michiana partners with local food suppliers to gather edible food that would otherwise go to waste and distribute it to local food banks, pantries and emergency food programs. Since September 2018, Four Winds has donated more than 10,300 pounds of food to Meals for Michiana.
“Like our work with Feeding America where we donate thousands of meals throughout southwest Michigan and northern Indiana, this partnership with Cultivate is indicative of our employees’ values and generosity,” Freedman said. “No one wants to think of our neighbors going hungry. If we can help package and distribute our surplus and provide it to those who need it, we’ll continue to make it happen.”
Elsewhere in the casinos’ food service areas, all straws at all four Four Winds properties will be replaced with biodegradable straws and by early summer, all cups in the four locations will be converted to biodegradable product. In the employee dining room, all cups will be replaced with reusable cups.
Other recycled waste from the kitchens include cardboard, aluminum, clear glass bottles, raw bone (the meat and fat are picked up by companies who use the product for animal feed), and residual fats from grease traps which is recycled for the production of biofuel.
“All of these initiatives underscore just how important it is to us that we protect and honor this planet,” Wesaw said. “We are well aware of how precious this land is and our responsibility to it. We also know the ways in which our businesses can affect it and in all that we do, we are committed to being good stewards of this gift.”
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians is dedicated to providing community development initiatives such as housing, education, family services, medical care and cultural preservation for its approximately 5,600 citizens. The tribe also operates the Four Winds Casino franchise which includes Four Winds New Buffalo in New Buffalo, Mich., Four Winds Hartford located in Hartford, Mich., Four Winds Dowagiac located Dowagiac, Mich., and Four Winds South Bend, located in South Bend, Ind. For more information, visit www.pokagonband-nsn.gov and www.fourwindscasino.com.
Hollywood Casino St. Louis goes green by implementing a large-scale sustainability effort throughout the property
BY HOLLYWOOD CASINO ST. LOUIS
Maryland Heights, Mo.-based Hollywood Casino St. Louis, a Penn National Gaming property, has launched a property-wide sustainability effort designed to eliminate over 25,000 pounds of waste annually and help reduce carbon emissions.
During the next several months, Hollywood Casino Saint Louis will execute and test “green” initiatives in its hotel rooms, restaurants, restrooms, parking garage and other areas of the property, including:
- Testing the elimination of plastic straws in the Hops House restaurant by switching to paper straws (available only on request), with the potential of eliminating up to 792,000 plastic straws per year;
- Installing Dyson Airblade hand dryers in all public restrooms, eliminating over 22,000 pounds of paper waste annually;
- Switching to coreless toilet paper rolls to decrease cardboard waste by over 800 pounds annually;
- Installing and testing permanent shower amenity dispensers on two hotel floors to greatly reduce disposable plastic bottles, eliminating 1,728 pounds of product and 335 pounds of plastic waste annually;
- Installing four SemaConnect EV charging stations in the parking garage to support patrons who drive electric vehicles, allowing them to charge vehicles for free; and
- Outfitting valet attendants with Adidas Ultraboost Parley Shoes, created with yarn made in collaboration with Parley for the Oceans and featuring Parley Ocean Plastic made from recycled waste intercepted from beaches and coastal communities before it reaches the ocean.
“As an executive at Hollywood Casino Saint Louis, I care about our commitment to innovation and action that has a meaningful impact on the environment and the community that we live in,” said Michael Jerlecki, general manager and vice president for Hollywood Casino St. Louis. “After completing a systematic review of our organization’s processes and culture, we are implementing changes and have begun to develop a framework for our property that helps us incorporate more sustainable efforts into our daily routines, while ensuring we deliver on our commitments to all stakeholders.”
Through collaboration with team members, guests, suppliers and business partners, Hollywood Casino St. Louis will constantly measure the progress and impact of these programs and report on progress through baseline assessment metrics used in various certifications.
Hollywood Casino offers over 120,000 square feet of action and excitement from 2,003 slots and video poker machines, 63 gaming tables and 20 poker tables. The resort’s hotel offers 455 deluxe rooms and 47 spacious suites. For more information, visit www.hollywoodcasinostlouis.com.
Sycuan Casino Resort taps guest engagement and staff management platform to improve efficiency in on-property operations
INTELITY, the Los Angeles-based provider of the travel industry’s broadest enterprise guest engagement and staff management platform, announced its complete hospitality platform is now incorporated into the recently unveiled $260 million expansion at San Diego’s Sycuan Casino Resort.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with INTELITY to enhance the guest experience at Sycuan,” said John Dinius, general manager at Sycuan Casino Resort. “INTELITY’s technology easily integrates with our other tech partners and offers the broadest range of features on the market that will appeal to our longtime guests as well as the more tech-savvy generation of customers we also anticipate.”
Through the INTELITY platform, guests at the new hotel will have access to the Sycuan mobile app, which provides mobile check-in/out, mobile key, and the ability to request amenities, book reservations, view current promotions, message with staff, schedule wake-up calls, control the in-room smart TV, access their own entertainment apps such as Netflix, Pandora and more. These amenities and services will also be available on customized in-room tablets located in each guest room.
The luxury casino resort, located east of downtown San Diego, is in the final stages of the significant expansion, which includes the addition of a 12-story luxury hotel tower, a variety of new restaurants from fast-casual to fine dining, meetings and event space, a full-service spa, state-of-the-art fitness center and a pool and gardens area with a lazy river and swim-up bar. Additionally, Sycuan will have 60,000 square feet of gaming space for a total of 2,800 slots machines and 54 table games.
“We’re pleased to have been selected by the team at Sycuan as it transitions to a true destination casino resort,” said Robert Stevenson, CEO of INTELITY. “Casinos have recognized the need for technology that connects hotel guests with property staff and the casino floor. We look forward to working with the Sycuan team in maximizing their use of the INTELITY platform to provide a superior and seamless guest experience.
Staff will use INTELITY’s back-office platform, INTELITY Staff, to fulfill guest requests, process work orders, and monitor all staff and guest activity. In addition to improving efficiency in on-property operations, the INTELITY platform also provides rich data analytics that can be utilized to create relevant and targeted offers and promotions for guests.
INTELITY is the global provider of a hospitality technology platform for the hotel, casino, cruise and luxury residential markets. INTELITY offers its customers comprehensive end-to-end solutions to manage guest experience and staff operations, in a single platform. For more information, visit www.intelity.com.
MGM Resorts International initiates operational savings and growth strategy
BY MGM RESORTS INTERNATIONAL
MGM Resorts International has revealed a plan to further reduce costs, improve efficiencies and position the company for growth.
The program, known as “MGM 2020,” will be a company-wide, business-optimization initiative aimed to leverage a more centralized organization to maximize profitability and, through key investments in technology, lay the groundwork for the company’s digital transformation to drive revenue growth. The plan expands upon themes that were outlined at the company’s 2018 Investor Day and also builds on MGM’s highly successful Profit Growth Plan that was implemented in 2015.
“Today, we are taking the next step in our evolution as an organization,” said Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International. “We are building on the strong foundation that we have solidified over the past few years, to deepen our efficiencies and achieve sustained growth and margin enhancement. MGM 2020 is intended to further transform the way we operate and leverage the most effective operational architecture for our company.”
“When we launched our Profit Growth Plan a few years ago, we transformed our culture to embrace a ‘One Company’ approach to operations, create best practices and efficiencies and drive significant adjusted EBITDA growth and margin expansion,” Murren added “Importantly, during this time, we established key centralized strategic functions and developed crucial operational expertise to enable best practices and efficiencies.
This new program will be driven by:
- Organizational changes to improve operating efficiencies. Over the past two years, MGM Resorts has centralized key company-wide functions and invested strategically in resources to create centers of excellence. The company is now in a position to leverage these centers of excellence to create additional efficiencies and realize $200 million of annualized adjusted EBITDA uplift by year end 2020, half of which will be driven by labor savings, 25 percent by sourcing and the remaining 25 percent by revenue optimization.
- Investing in the Company’s digital transformation to drive revenue growth. With the conclusion of its development cycle, MGM Resorts is generating significant free cash flow. Over the next few years, the company expects to reallocate a portion of its annual capital expenditure budget to specific technology advancements that will increase revenues and grow market share by innovating and elevating the guest experience through data, pricing, digital and loyalty capabilities and optimizing business mix. Through the company’s digital transformation, the company expects to realize $100 million of annualized adjusted EBITDA uplift by year end 2021.
“We had a solid finish to the year in 2018, and as we look to 2019 and beyond, we remain confident in the ramp-up of our newly opened properties MGM COTAI, MGM Springfield, Park MGM and NoMad Las Vegas,” Murren said. “We will enter two attractive markets in New York and Ohio. We will continue to work toward cementing MGM Resorts as the leader in sports, following the milestones achieved in 2018 with GVC and the professional sports leagues. We remain focused on pursuing an integrated resort opportunity in Japan. MGM 2020 reinforces our commitment to increasing margins and maximizing profitability.”
MGM Resorts International is an S&P 500 global entertainment company with national and international locations featuring best-in-class hotels and casinos, state-of-the-art meetings and conference spaces, live and theatrical entertainment experiences, and an extensive array of restaurant, nightlife and retail offerings. For more information visit www.mgmresorts.com.