Indian Gaming Stories

In A Dark Hole

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Installment #1

T and T Logo CroppedWith half a dozen inches of snow falling on glazed ice I had made my way to the Chickasaw Nation’s Newcastle Gaming Center. As the Marketing Director for this casino and through my years in the gaming business one thing I’ve learned is to count on people finding their way to the casino even when most businesses are closed.  Still, I found myself amazed on this night, joking with the skeleton staff and wondering how our guests had made it.

This little casino was made up of two buildings that were not connected.  A cantankerous P.A. system, always too loud or not loud enough, served as our communication between buildings.  Running promotions took some creative effort from all casino staff, but it worked.  In some ways it helped to connect all of us.  We recruited everyone to help. From security to office staff, everyone was a part of this effort. 

My leather shoes became soaked as I made the trek back and forth between buildings picking up player’s club members entries for the night’s promotions.  There were 7 entrances into these two casino buildings, and one thing I will always remember is that all 7 always had staff ready to greet guests.  It made an impression and I still compare this level of service to other casinos around Oklahoma and the nation.  Rarely have I found a casino that met the same standard.

I was proud to work for the Chickasaw tribe.  Growing up in northeastern Oklahoma I had been raised with a genuine respect and pride in the culture, heritage, traditions, and beliefs important to preserve the future of tribes.  For many tribes sustaining this history is the greatest challenge, and all too often it is clear that their futures are at risk.

The Chickasaw tribe helped restore my faith that the best was still possible, that somehow tribes around the nation could find their way, could restore pride, would preserve their cultures and teach their children.  The Chickasaw’s stable leadership created the Chickasaw Enterprises and for me represented the benchmark for other tribes.  I was not a Chickasaw tribal member but the tribe and its leadership made it clear to all those dedicated to the success of these tribal enterprises that we were valued “members” of the tribe.  My style of management and commitment to these basic concepts fit perfectly.  I knew that I was part of an organization that walked the talk.  It was refreshing.

The customers kept coming on this snowy night that would prove to have very special meaning for me.

      –Copyright 2009 Davis Tripp.  No portion may be reprinted or used without permission of the author.  Contact

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Installment #2

By 10 p.m. the storm was raging. It was just a few days until Thanksgiving.   I was hearing that many casinos around the state had shut their doors and even the Oklahoma City airport had closed.  Having worked in lots of other casino environments, including the mountain towns in Colorado, the concept of closing was unthinkable. T and T Logo Cropped

A decade before as General Manager of a high stakes Indian bingo hall I told the staff that we would be open Christmas day, a holiday that they had traditionally been closed.   I heard from most staff that “nobody will show up.”  I knew differently; Christmas day and others to follow were some of the biggest days of the year.

When there is nothing to do, when nothing is open, the casino is a place for entertainment, everyday, 24/7.  The “black hole theory” is what I teach and work towards.  It’s simple:  prepare to meet every possible need of the customer.  Give them every reason to come in and no reason to leave.  If you’re hungry there is food; if you’re thirsty you can get a drink; if you’re bored there is entertainment.

Well, on this particular night when the snow kept falling and the customers kept playing, I received a call that would change my course and would introduce me to something different.  I could barely hear the voice on the other end of the cell phone but someone was driving to the casino, a few days before Thanksgiving, in a late fall ice storm, to meet me.

By 11 p.m. I was preparing to complete the final promotion for the night.  I received a call that a customer needed to speak to me.  I learned that the customer was very concerned that he might win the drawing but had forgotten his player’s club card.  What would happen?  I told him not to worry that IF he won everything would be alright. 

Casino employees can easily solve customer issues like this.  Your job as a manager is to teach them how and then empower them to do it.  One training technique that I like to use is to walk with an employee or two on the floor, look down a row of slot machines and ask them to tell me “who needs something?”    If you look you can tell, and if you can teach your employees to look they can tell too.  It’s in the customer’s posture or look.  It’s a dollar that the machine won’t take.  Over the years I’ve watched many staff members significantly increase their tips applying a concept as basic as this and practicing their awareness.  For me, it comes naturally, but what I have learned is that for lots of people it’s something they have to learn and practice.  It’s like planting seeds: eventually many will blossom.

It was second nature for me to scan the casino floor even when solving a problem with a customer.  As I finished reassuring this customer, I saw a tall, lanky gentleman strolling through the casino.  I knew this guy had to be the voice on the other end of the phone.  We made eye contact and he walked up as I continued to talk with the customer.  Right away I thought that there was something special about this guy.  He looked at the customer with a reassuring look of approval and even had some encouraging words.

–Copyright 2009 Davis Tripp.  No portion may be reprinted or used without permission of the author.  Contact

Watch for weekly installments of Trials and Tribe-ulations.

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