Now More Than Ever: Solid Casino Advice for a Shaky Economy

The economy has allegedly taken its first steps on the road to recovery, but with capital markets still tighter than Spandex and consumers’ wallets all but sealed shut, now’s not the time to trust your bottom line to automatically return to where it was two years ago. It might, however, be time to trust an outside resource to help rev up revenue, pull in new players, optimize a stagnant system or plan your next strategic step. With so much at stake in the casino industry, a single misstep might mean the difference between a Chapter 11 filing and a triumphant turn at the top when the economy does finally recover. Luckily, experts are on hand to help you map your path through this uncertain terrain.

Casino Enterprise Management has asked top consultants from each segment of the casino industry to weigh in on why some investments are worth it, and especially when every penny counts. Whether your company decides to wait for rescue or blaze a new trail, one thing is for sure: In a shaky economy, there’s never a better time for some solid advice.

JEBA KINGSLEY, BALLY TECHNOLOGIES

Years in Gaming: 3

Years in Service Industry: 13

Areas of expertise: We cover all facets of the casino floor, including marketing, cage, accounting, credit, content development and custom technical engagements. One of the strengths that differentiates us from our competitors is that we have a very strong team of programmers and functional experts who can work with our customers to create customized products or alter the base product to suit customer needs in all products we offer. Our functional experts work very closely with casino marketing, finance and IT groups to design, develop and execute tailored solutions that leverage all the best that our products offer. Bally’s Professional Services group supports casinos of all sizes worldwide.

Notable Clients: All of our customers are notable. Bally currently provides systems to 25 of the 41 largest casinos in the world.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?

Our knowledge of casino operations, our products, and our ability to utilize current technologies is a definite advantage to our customers. Our Professional Services group has extensive knowledge in casino operations and an in-depth knowledge of how our products work. With a combination like that, we can make the product execute to our customers’ vision.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?

We have recently noticed that there is an increase in requests for professional services. Successful casinos that want to stay ahead of the competition are working with us to create tailored technology and marketing solutions that make the difference.

Traditionally, we have seen casinos using professional services to develop programs and add solutions that increase revenue; now, in addition to driving revenue, we are seeing many casinos engage our professional services to save money through improvements in operating efficiencies.

In this challenging market, professional services are more important than ever. Casinos need to best leverage their investment in Bally technology to drive additional play, generate additional revenue and see an increase in operating efficiencies. We have the knowledge to help our customers maximize the return on their investment.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
In competitive markets like those many of our customers are in today, it is more important than ever to use professional services. Bally’s Professional Services team, working in partnership with our customers, can help casinos deliver solutions that allow them to be more competitive. Most casino properties use about 30–40 percent of our product functionality, and there is much more that our products can offer, which casinos could use to their advantage. Engaging professional services will only help the property better analyze, understand and execute programs and tools that perform.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?
Take the time to understand the product and make sure to take advantage of the full potential of the software that you bought. Not realizing the full potential of your Bally Systems is like only driving a Porsche in first gear.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?

The consulting process falls into two categories: problem solving and gaining operational efficiency. We will work with our casino customers upfront to make sure we agree on the issues, desired solutions, expected deliverables, timelines and budget.

When it comes to problem solving, we will partner with our customers to analyze the problem, identify the cause, develop alternative solutions, brainstorm on the pros and cons of each solution, and work with them to select a solution that best fits their needs. We will then develop a formal plan to achieve the solution.

When it comes to gaining operational efficiencies, we can provide resources who can work with the appropriate team at the casino to understand the requirements, clarify the deliverables and execute to meet our customers’ timelines.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Agree on the deliverables and always exceed expectations. Someone very smart gave me this advice early in my career, and it has become our mantra in Bally Professional Services. This philosophy takes care of the need to market our services, because almost all the customers who try Bally Professional Services come back to us and also tell others to give us a try. We started as a six-member team in 2006, and now we are more than 50 team members strong and growing. This is a testament to the quality of people we have at Bally.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
This is not the worst business advice I have received, but the worst thing that one can do in professional services: assume that customers who buy your products will, by default, choose your professional services. Customers always want the best and will gravitate to the best consultant in the market. I have seen many companies’ professional services groups fail when they take things for granted. At Bally, we appreciate the business and realize that there are a lot of good consultants out there. That is why we make sure that all our team members are well trained and eager to help our customers.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
The quality of Bally’s Professional Services team is unsurpassed. Our team members have an average of more than 15 years of experience running casinos. Most of our technical team members have an engineering degree, and many have advanced degrees.

Also, we know our products better than anyone, and we stand behind our deliverables. And because most casinos have a 24-hour a day business, so do we. We are available around the clock to assist our customers.

What type of fee structure do you use? 
Our fee structure is very competitive and in line with industry standards. One of the areas in which we differentiate from our competitors is by giving offshore rates for medium- to large-scale development efforts when the work is performed in our Bally India development center.

JOEL D. BERGMAN, GEORGE A. BERGMAN
BERGMAN, WALLS & ASSOCIATES, LTD

Years in Gaming: Joel has more than 40 years of experience and is supported by partners with more than 200 years experience.

Areas of expertise: Architectural master planning, design, construction documents, interior design, 3-D imaging and post production for resorts, gaming resorts, clubs, dining and entertainment architecture.

Notable Clients: Paris Casino Hotel and Caesars Palace Casino Hotel for Harrah’s Entertainment; The Pittsburgh Casino in Pittsburgh as well several master plan design analyses. Various expansion and renovation projects include the Golden Nugget Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, and the L’Auberge du Lac Casino Hotel for Pinnacle Entertainment. Dining and entertainment venues include LAX Nightclub, PURE Nightclub and Pussycat Dolls Lounge, Payard Patisserie & Bistro, Restaurant Guy Savoy and Rao’s, Casa Fuente, Lucky Strike, Dick’s Last Resort, Trader Vic’s, The Capital Grille Las Vegas and Scottsdale, Café Ba-Ba Reeba and Becker’s Steakhouse. Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and Little Six Casino for The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community; Casino Snoqualmie for the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe; Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ important decisions?
Joel Bergman alone has more than 40 years in designing gaming resort and entertainment facilities. Supported by George Bergman and several other partners, we make available more than 200 years of experience to our select list of clients. Moreover, Joel Bergman and Scott Walls have a combined 26 years working for Mirage Resorts, during which they participated not only in the design of projects such as Mirage Resorts, three Golden Nugget projects and Treasure Island, but they also participated in management decisions as well. This experience allows them to support and assist BWA’s clients in making sound, intelligent and appropriate decisions in the design of their projects.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?
Domestically there has been a marked decrease in construction activities over the past year. Specifically related to gaming and entertainment, several of our major clients have slowed projects in the design stage, and others have ceased work on projects that were under construction. Certain projects are being “shelled” so that they are protected from the weather until they are finished when the economic environment improves. In at least one instance, the building is unfinished and is not even being protected from the elements.

We believe the root cause is a fundamental lack of sound judgment when money was plentiful. With few exceptions, currently there simply is no support and no funds being directed into new resort hotels and no demand for condominiums and resort condominiums from the buying public.

We have noticed a small increase in mid-priced restaurants, bars and nightclubs. In addition, at least one of our gaming clients is taking advantage of the soft construction market and expanding several new casino resort products to its portfolio in select markets.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 

During tough economic times it is always a difficult decision to spend money on hiring architects for capital improvements when the money is not available to go forward with those capital improvements. However, it has really shown us all that companies that plan for the future, that are aggressive not only in marketing and promotions but also in looking for that competitive edge, will in fact grow their market share. Those companies will be ready to go forward with their capital projects at the first sign of change. Several of our clients understand this and have asked us to study ways to improve their properties at this time.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?
The best advice I have ever given any client is to look at a track record of their architect, specifically BWA’s.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?
The consulting process is about not just the team’s work, it is about the team leader and who gets the job done consistently. Anyone can be on time and on budget if you allow them to change the date and add to the budget wantonly.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Admit that there is a mistake and then fix it. If you do not admit that there is a mistake, then there is nothing to fix and the problem only gets worse.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?

When we agreed to continue working on a project in Las Vegas without being paid for work that we had already performed. We realized we were off the mark when the owners filed bankruptcy.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
Potential clients realize they should hire BWA when they see the depth of our experience, the quality of our designs and the success of each of our completed projects. We are a top-down, hands-on organization. A principal is involved from start to finish, and we never accept more commissions then can be properly handled by our staff.

What type of fee structure do you use? 

We base our fees on the amount of work that will be performed on each project. All fees are fixed once the scope-of-services has been established.

Anything else you’d like to add?
At Bergman, Walls & Associates our goal is simple: That our projects be remembered for their distinctive architecture and, ultimately, for their financial success for their owners.

BILL LERNER, GRANT GOVERTSEN, RICH MORIARTY
UNION GAMING GROUP

Years in Gaming: 10+

Years Consulting: 10+

Areas of Expertise: Independent sell-side gaming research, government and corporate gaming feasibility and valuation, and advisory in North America and Asia.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?
Collectively, we have very deep industry expertise coupled with 10+ years of relationships with corporate, strategic and financial partners. Bill Lerner has been recognized by Institutional Investor as part of its “All American Research Team” and Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Street.” Rich Moriarty has led several landmark equity and equity-linked transactions in the gaming space, notably: Wynn Resorts, Boyd Gaming, Melco-Crown, Shuffle Master Incorporated, and Sociedade de Jogos de Macau. In 2008, Moriarty was recognized in Institutional Investor’s annual poll for “Best Sales – Gaming and Lodging.”

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?
We have been incredibly busy, particularly for a start-up firm (formed in April 2009). As more and more states either begin to face budgetary issues or existing budgetary issues are exacerbated, gaming expansion is often seen as a means to help resolve them. With more and more states looking at gaming expansion, the need for gaming consulting and expertise will only increase. We’re currently working with the state of Kansas from an applicant financial viability standpoint as part of its effort to expand gaming. At the same time, gaming expansion clearly draws interest from casino companies who will also need independent third-party analysis of new and expanding gaming markets (not to mention help in financing new development). Essentially, we believe there has never been a better time for gaming expertise and the ability to provide in-depth research and an array of capital solutions to bridge the gap to the next cycle.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
Without question they certainly do. Clearly, operators and suppliers need the help of consultants from a gaming expansion perspective. However, the need for help doesn’t stop there as it extends to many parts of their businesses. For instance, several of the large casino operators consolidated over the past few years and there is still a need to “right-size” their structures for both a normal economic environment as well as for tough economic environments. Taking the current environment a step further and as several casino operators enter the bankruptcy process, consultants will play a notable part as businesses are restructured, assets are sold, new management teams are put in place, etc.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?
There will never be a better time than now for the well-capitalized to grow their businesses. Periods of great distress provide opportunities seldom available in the course of normal markets—CARPE DIEM!

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?
That we are there to help and be incremental to their process, not to collect a fee because they are in distress. We are big believers in the gaming industry and formed our business at a time when many others were running away from the industry. We’re in it for the long haul.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

To not accept outside capital to grow our business. It allowed us to maintain our independence and to make strategic decisions unencumbered by outside influence.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?

To stay on Wall Street at a large institution. While working at a large firm can have its advantages, we are quite pleased to be independent.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
We offer independent research products and services that are rooted in the extensive industry expertise and insight of the founders, all of whom have deep relationships with the investment community, corporate managements, governments and other parties important to the global gaming business

What type of fee structure do you use?

It varies across the businesses.


DICK RIZZO,
 PERINI BUILDING COMPANY

Years in Gaming: More than 30

Years Consulting: More than 30

Areas of Expertise: Perini Building Company is the largest builder of hospitality resorts and gaming properties in the nation. Its niche market is constructing fast track, complex projects. Professional services offered are construction management, general contracting, preconstruction, post construction and design/build. Perini Building Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tutor Perini Corporation and trades on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: TPC). It specializes in both commercial and tribal hospitality projects, which take it all over the country.

Notable Clients: Native American Hospitality and Gaming: Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, Pechanga Development Corporation, Pala Band of Mission Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Santa Ynez Band of Chunnash Indians, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Shingle Springs Tribal Gaming Authority, Sycuan Band of the Kunneyaay Nation, United Auburn Indian Community (c/o Station Casinos), Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

Commercial Hospitality and Gaming: ACCOR N.A., Ameristar, Aztar Corporation, Bostonian Hotel Associates c/o Lexon Corporation, Circus Circus Enterprises, City of Phoenix, Colony Advisors LLC, Don Laughlin, Dover Downs, DWG Development, El Rancho Hotel and Casino Eldorado/Circus Circus Joint Venture, Fiesta Palms LLC, Gaylord Hotels, GNOC T/A The Grand Golden Road Motor Inn, Harrah’s Entertainment, Harvey’s Iowa Management Company, Holdings Acquisitions Co. LP, Holiday Inn Inc., HSP Gaming LP, Hyatt Development Corporation, Isle of Capri Casinos Inc., Jackson Shaw/Paradise LV L.P., John Ascuaga’s Nugget Mariner Corporation, MGM MIRAGE, Morgans Hotel Group, Nevada Property 1 LLC, One&Only Resorts, Penn National Gaming, Penns Landing Corporation, Perini Friend Associates, Prudential Insurance Company of America, Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino, Showboat Inc., Starwood Hotel & Resorts, Station Casinos, Sun International Development Group Inc., The Edward Thomas Companies, The Maloof Companies, The Ritz Carlton, The Trump Organization / Trump Taj Mahal Associates L.P., Tropicana Las Vegas Inc., Waterford Development LLC, Westgate Resorts, Woodbine Southwest Corporation, Wynn Design & Development.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?
Our role as a member of the design-build team is to understand our client’s objectives and make strategic recommendations that positively influence those objectives. First we listen and find out all we can, including client goals (short- and long-term), expected rate of return on investment, and budget. Once we have a comprehensive overview of the project, we become very proactive participants in the process and know that any advice we offer will result in a positive outcome based on our hospitality and gaming experience.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?
2009 will be a very financially successful year for Perini Building Company. With the completion of CityCenter nearing (the majority of it will be completed in late 2009) and significant progress on the completion of The Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino in 2010, we were already prepared for a slow down. Regardless of the economic climate, it would have been difficult to sustain that level of activity. With that said, construction has, without a doubt, slowed down. One of the main reasons is a lack of financing. Banks are either not in a position or just not willing to lend. Once sentiments change and people begin to perceive an upturn in the economy, we are in hopes that the availability of financing will improve.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
As a construction manager, we believe we can save our clients the most money if Perini offers preconstruction services during the planning/preconstruction phase of a project. As a preconstruction consultant, we have the potential to cut as much as 20 percent off the total project cost through value engineering and collaboration with the design team. In addition, early involvement also allows us greater opportunity to accelerate the building schedule, which in turn contributes to the bottom line. This also applies to refurbishing projects, which might be a more viable option.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?

Rarely has there been a more opportune time or demand for creative, cost-effective ideas. Partnering with a client in a collaborative environment not only breeds innovation, but it also reduces risk. In the building industry, free-flowing communication ensures that challenges are solved in advance of construction.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?
It is a partnership. Clients need to communicate their objectives, but they also need to objectively take advice and be flexible enough to change direction based on facts or circumstances.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Always try to understand your client’s needs and challenges to see how you can assist them. Our goal is to continue to add value to clients and help them be successful in their objectives.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?

Cut back on business development efforts in slow times. That is when you need it the most.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 

Perini Building Company has more expertise building hospitality resorts and gaming and convention programs than any other general contractor in the United States. Our depth of experience qualifies us to handle the complex components of a construction project. Although this is our niche, we never take anything for granted. We are grateful for every project. Perhaps even more important is that more than 70 percent of our clients are repeat customers. Clients continue to hire Perini because we build quality projects and keep our commitments to building properties on budget and time.

What type of fee structure do you use?
It depends on the project’s circumstances. Most hospitality projects are negotiated—the cost of the work plus a fee contract where we agree to a guaranteed maximum price and schedule.

STEPHANIE MADDOCKS, POWER STRATEGIES

Years in Gaming: 20

Years Consulting: 4

Areas of expertise: Power Strategies focuses on gaming operations, including casino marketing, technology selection and implementation, project management, and training. We recognize that casinos are only as successful as their people and processes, so we’ve designed our services to focus on improving team members and operations through the efficient and effective utilization of technology throughout the casino/resort.

A new focus for our company is to provide leadership and organizational development training, as well as tribal career path planning. We understand that one of the most prevalent needs in the gaming industry is knowledge and helping team members learn in order to lead.

We also offer business operations strategies to help companies grow their business and improve their operational efficiencies, and at the same time sharing their strengths and core competencies as a collaborative team.

Additionally, we develop custom training materials and documentation, review operations for MICS compliance, design internal controls and technical standards, and guide strategic and tactical planning sessions.

Power Strategies offers consulting services to all types of gaming operations to provide guidance and direction for their changing technology requirements, as well as to gaming manufacturers to assist them with incorporating casinos’ needs into their products and services and implementing their products into casino environments. While our primary focus is on commercial and tribal casinos within the United States, we also provide services for foreign and domestic gaming manufacturers and operators.

Notable Clients: Ainsworth Technologies Ltd., Aristocrat Technologies Inc., Aruze Gaming Americas, C2/Colossal Gaming, Cherokee Nation Entertainment, Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission, Four Winds Casino Resort, Konami Gaming Inc., Lakes Entertainment, Red Hawk Casino.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?

Power Strategies team members have been involved in more than 50 casino system installations across the United States. We have a knowledge base of best practices, policies and procedures, and processes that can be utilized to define and develop a casino’s own operations. We understand the 24/7/365 nature of the gaming industry and the critical importance of technology systems to a casino’s success. Additionally, with our experience in both casino operations and gaming manufacturing, we bring a unique perspective of being able to understand both product development and product implementation.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?
We have seen a steady level of business through the challenging economic times the industry is facing. As companies are searching for areas to streamline their operations, we see them turning more to outside consultants to provide guidance and resources to assist in their business planning and create efficiencies.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
It is easy for people to be afraid during bad economic times. I believe this is a time of opportunity—not a time to run from opportunity. Consultants with smart experience know how to help companies truly take advantage of these prospects.

Professional gaming consultants are valuable to a wide variety of casino projects. Consultants are useful in the event the casino operation does not have the skill set required or enough internal resources to define, manage, and complete a project. These professionals are able to contribute to projects while allowing the full time casino team members to focus on their existing responsibilities.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?
Planning cannot take the place of action.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?

Communication is the key to a successful client-consultant relationship. The consultants need to be involved in the entire process in order to effectively provide advice and guidance to all facets of the project.

Clearly defined expectations and deliverables are a requirement so that both client and consultant agree what deliverables will be developed, how the relationship will be evaluated and how successful completion will be defined.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
“Just focus and do it” was the best advice I’ve ever received. In the end, results are about action, and consultants provide value by achieving results. So many companies are stagnant and trapped in indecision, division and inaction. Being able to focus on defining goals and taking action to complete them is a best practice that guarantees success.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
“You can’t do that” was the worse advice I ever received, and as soon as I was told it, I knew that it was not the right answer. I have always believed that there is always a way, and when presented with the challenge of “you can’t do that,” I continue to search for a way to achieve the expected results. The path may not be the one that was first identified, but there is always a way to complete the task. Probably better advice would have been “you can’t do it that way,” because that always leaves other possibilities available.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 

What we do is ensure that things get done. Quality consultants generally provide unbiased opinions, assessments and recommendations for new and effective strategies. We are able to assess operations from an outsider’s standpoint that does not incorporate the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality and also bring a background of how other casino’s run their operations.

What type of fee structure do you use? 
We tailor our fees based on the type and duration of a project.

TOM NELSON, PAT LEEN, GAMING REGULATORY CONSULTANTS

Years in Gaming: Tom, 12; Pat, 22

Years Consulting: 7

Areas of Expertise: Development and implementation of regulatory agency structures and programs, including but not limited to licensing, compliance and electronic gaming device inspection programs for commercial and tribal clients.

Notable Clients: California Gambling Control Commission, Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, McAfee & Taft PLC, Gerson-Lehrman.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?
We have developed highly successful regulatory agencies and compliance programs in both tribal and nontribal settings. In our extensive and varied experience, we have confronted, analyzed and dealt with the full spectrum of issues likely to face a regulatory agency.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?
Our business has remained steady. Because we personally provide all services directly to our clients, our practice is to take only a limited number of projects in order to devote proper attention to each.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
In our view, the need for expertise should not depend on economic cycles. From a regulatory perspective, economic difficulties are not an excuse for a failure to remain compliant with industry regulations. In fact, when budgets are under stress, quality consultants may be able to recommend ways to continue a very high level of compliance at reduced costs.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?

Be honest and honorable—always.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?

Consultants can provide very valuable advice and assistance, but they can’t make decisions for the client. Beyond that, at the outset of the relationship, it is critical for the consultant and client to work closely together to set up mutually agreed upon, specific objectives and to constantly monitor progress toward achievement. As the project or engagement proceeds, clients need to understand the importance of frank and honest communication with the consultant. A consultant’s advice is only as good as the information upon which it is based. The client thus needs to ensure that the consultant receives accurate data and is informed as to all aspects of the situation. As noted, clients must understand that the consultant is not the decision-maker, especially with respect to matters of policy, and that the client must take responsibility for the ultimate outcome. However, a consultant should always make the client aware of the most likely course of action and the potential outcome, both positive and negative, of each action taken by the client.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Actually we received two pieces of good advice. A colleague and good friend told us to never enter into an agreement with someone that you do not or cannot trust. Despite the fact that it is not always apparent at the outset whether you can trust someone, it has reminded us to remain wary, which has worked in all but one unfortunate circumstance. The second piece of advice came from a former Nevada board member, who told us as we were starting our consulting business that our initial focus was too narrow and that there was a need for generalists given the rapid expansion of the industry. Fortunately we were wise enough to heed his advice, since it resulted in a number of opportunities we would otherwise have missed out on.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
We really haven’t received any bad advice with regard to running our business. However, on more than a few occasions, so-called “experts” have told us that regulatory actions we were considering would prove disastrous. We knew immediately that the advice was faulty and probably motivated by self-interest in one form or another because we had done our homework and vetted the advice against other sources that we trusted.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 

Due to the highly specialized nature of our work, we have a very limited number of competitors. Though other consulting companies can do similar work, we have more direct and practical hands-on experience dealing with important regulatory issues than anyone else.

What type of fee structure do you use?
Hourly rate plus expenses.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Consultants can be an enormous benefit to their clients provided that they fully understand their role and its limitations and are willing to do the hard work necessary to fully appreciate the client’s situation and potential outcomes before offering any advice.


MICHAEL SOLL, 
THE INNOVATION GROUP OF COMPANIES

Affiliates of The Innovation Group of Companies include Innovation Capital, Innovation Marketing, Innovation Project Development and Innovation Management Services.

Years in Gaming: 10+ personally, 20+ firm

Years Consulting: 10+

Areas of Expertise:
 The Innovation Group is the industry’s leading advisory firm for consulting, research, finance, marketing, development, operations and management. The path to our current structure was indeed a unique one, featuring horizontal and vertical diversifications that developed out of both necessity and capability.

We have experience throughout the globe, including work in nearly every major gaming jurisdiction. Domestically, our portfolio is balanced between Native American and commercial clientele, and the projects we evaluate have ranged from minor renovations to multibillion destination resorts.

Notable Clients:
 Boyd Gaming, Cannery Resorts, Delaware North, Hard Rock Café International, Harrah’s Entertainment, Isle of Capri Casinos, Las Vegas Sands, MGM Mirage, Penn National Gaming, Pinnacle Entertainment, Planet Hollywood, Trump Entertainment Resorts, Wynn Resorts; Cordish Companies, Lazard Carnegie Wylie, Macquarie Capital, ONEX; Government of Bermuda, Manitoba Lotteries Corporation, Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation; Enterprises of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Mashantucket Pequots, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, Pokagon Band of Potowatomi Indians, Pueblo of Sandia, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, Seminole Tribe of Florida.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?
From an individual perspective, my greatest strengths are derived from the time I spent on the owner side of the industry. By working within such entities as Bear Stearns, Starwood, Hard Rock and Caesars, I developed a wide array of skills that I apply to the high level of advisory insight I provide clients. As an analyst and development specialist, I can identify and evaluate the pertinent financial and site data on which clients can base sound business decisions. As an asset manager, I have experience in capital planning, refinancing, negotiating and evaluating the viability of ventures. As a brand specialist, I gained exposure to the power and value of customer relationships and third-party associations.

As a firm, I am pleased to say that at The Innovation Group of Companies, I am surrounded by a group of peers who are as equally diverse and qualified to influence important decisions. Several of my colleagues also gained a significant portion of their experience working for leading industry operators, and so it helps all of us when we provide analysis and guidance back to individuals when we understand what it is like to be in their shoes.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?

Thankfully, the workload for most of our affiliates has remained fairly consistent, although the nature of many of our projects is unquestionably varied from previous years. Specifically (and not surprisingly), we have provided a great deal of distress guidance to clients throughout the past year, and the volume of new projects in certain markets—most notably Las Vegas and Atlantic City—have tapered off significantly. At the same time, though, while these markets have witnessed declines, our expertise has been sought after in jurisdictions such as Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Kentucky and Ohio that are or were considering expanding or modifying their gaming legislation.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 

Absolutely. The demand for good advice doesn’t change with economic trends, only the type of the advice that is needed. Competition, market demand and evolving technology are constant issues to address whether the economy is booming or weak, which means that there is always something that a gaming property needs to consider in order to stay fresh to its patrons. Leaders don’t stay leaders by being complacent. And those who aren’t the leaders . . . well, they are strategizing right now (many with our assistance) to figure out how they can be.

The most astute and successful operators recognize that challenging economic times can also translate into tremendous opportunities. One organization’s need to streamline operations and downsize property volume may represent a once-in-a-lifetime acquisition prospect for another.


If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?

Consider the value of gaming and leisure opportunities as comprehensively as possible. Too many new projects and ongoing operations are analyzed in a box, with only some of the necessary inputs and assumptions. We ultimately try to measure returns holistically by balancing interrelated factors—concept, site characteristics, design impact, customer experience, role of brands, operating environment, opportunities with third parties, employee impacts, effect of competitors, top line potential, operating budget, tax impacts, and the required capital cost to sustain a project’s potential. When all of these factors are in play, each can be adjusted iteratively so that we are not only measuring returns but also driving feasibility and the fulfillment of owners’ objectives.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
The best business advice I received was to exhibit and honor authenticity. I have found this to lead most easily to success because it removes barriers.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?

The worst advice was to take up golf because the golf course is where most important business is conducted. This advice is worthless if you spend all of your time in the rough!

Why should a potential customer hire you?
Our track record says it all: The industry’s top operators and emerging organizations insist upon using us, and there are few major global gaming initiatives that have occurred that did not feature our involvement at some level. We invest heavily in our staff and technology to ensure that we are providing the most reliable information and guidance to our clients, and as a result, our reputation for accuracy and discretion is unmatched.

What type of fee structure do you use?

It depends on the assignment, but typically we arrange for fixed fee contracts. We also consider time/material and retainer arrangements if it is mutually beneficial to do so.


JEFF ORTWEIN, 
NATIONAL GAMING LEADER

Years in Gaming: 23

Years in Service Industry: 23

Areas of expertise: Our National Gaming Industry practice includes more than 250 professionals in more than 30 offices across the country dedicated to serving industry clients in every gaming jurisdiction. With dedicated Financial Advisory Services, Mergers & Acquisitions Services, Tax Services and Consulting Services, we have a wide range of unique service capabilities.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ important decisions?
With more than 23 years of experience primarily in the audit area, I have experienced many situations that provide the necessary background to assist companies in dealing with complex and challenging business issues. Also, as the national gaming leader for Deloitte, I have access to the firm’s significant audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory resources. When companies choose Deloitte, they can be confident they have chosen a firm with a professional approach, a broad understanding of general business, and knowledge of today’s particular market and industry dynamics.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy? 
The level of activity in the current economy has significantly decreased, which impacts our business in multiple service lines.

If you could only offer one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be? 

Focus on building brand loyalty and long-term relationships with your guests. Also, companies need to continue to focus on cost containment and overall liquidity.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?

The key to any good client relationship is having an intimate understanding of its business strategy and culture. Clients that allow us to truly become part of their team in understanding their culture and their unique business environment are the ones able to maximize the return on their consulting investments.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
With our significant gaming experience, we understand accounting issues and industry concerns, and we bring this holistic knowledge to every engagement we perform. We maintain strong relationships with gaming regulators throughout the United States.   Because of our 40-year commitment to the gaming industry, many organizations are turning to Deloitte for audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory services.

Through our dedicated gaming and hospitality practice, we make a significant investment into our leadership in the industry. We have a full service gaming practice beyond audit that is providing leading services to the gaming and hospitality industry such as leading corporate governance, accountability frameworks, gaming system strategy and review, human resource strategy, marketing and customer relationship management, business intelligence and data analytics.

KATHY N. JACKSON, PRECEDENT GAMING

Years in Gaming: 8 in casino games, 10 in toys & games

Years Consulting: 20

Areas of Expertise: Casino game invention for the tribal, commercial and domestic markets.

Notable Clients:
 International Game Technology, WMS Gaming, 21st Century Gaming Products, GameLogic.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?
The ability to analyze and anticipate trends and get patents issued in those areas.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?

A decrease, due to the depressed casino market.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
Yes. In our case, we can offer unique patented ideas that smaller staffing and budget constraints now make more difficult to provide. We do not require the ongoing salaries, healthcare, vacations, holidays, sick days, pensions, extensive research and patent costs that become very cost-inefficient in the development of in-house games.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?

Consider all of the time and cost involved to develop a game, and the potential ROI. Take a chance on revolutionary ideas. Consider what the casino market would be like without multi-play poker and multi-line slots.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
“Buy something for a buck, sell it for two.” It is the essence of capitalism.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
A very well-known game designer said, “That game will never patent! You should abandon it.” We later sold that game for a lot of money after it had patented.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
We have a proven record of accomplishment with major companies and a library of fresh, patented game concepts. We not only understand the business, having 35 years of background in advertising and marketing, but have the math and graphic skills as well.

What type of fee structure do you use?
Various, including per project, outright sale, percentage of gameplay receipts, royalty, leases and combinations of the preceding. We are flexible.

Anything else you’d like to add?

It’s a good time to reassess a company’s game offerings strategy. Markets, player preferences and attitudes are changing. Value is now more important than ever. Gaming technological progress is pointing to a fascinating future.

DAVID J. PASTER, YARBOROUGH PLANNING LLC

Years in Gaming: 12

Years Consulting: 14

Areas of Expertise: Guest equity and reinvestment analysis, comprehensive research, and operational redesign primarily for domestic commercial clients, serving operators and industry support entities.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?
As an outsider, one is privy to greater objectivity. However, I recognize that the final decision always lies with the client. I can direct a decision-making process and offer guidance, but I respect that, in the end, the final decision must be made by the client alone.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?
Business has decreased. Hiring a consultant is not perceived by many in casino management as a money-saving activity like outsourcing accounting or payroll functions. While the “reality check” offered by an external consultant may save money, the results are not guaranteed, and this inability to demonstrate direct savings and/or enhanced revenues makes operators wary when dealing with not only limited but decreasing resources. When proverbially battening down the hatches, all levels of management may feel that they should only act on activities that provide immediate, accountable results.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
If an operator/supplier discovers a specific problem and is looking for a solution, then yes. Key performance indicators such as EBIDTA, Occupancy, Win Per Device, and RevPar may be decreasing, but a consultant might be able to isolate what portion of the decrease can be correlated to the environment and how much is internally caused.

Most consultants do not have the comprehensive expertise to answer a holistic complaint such as “we’re not making the money we used to,” rather, a hotel consultant might be able to address why RevPar is not remaining steady even though, for example, the same customer base is patronizing the hotel (e.g., guests not ordering room service or watching pay-per-view). The hotel consultant most often could not answer why the drop is off or the coin-in on nickel denominations is lower than average for the market. The trick is to hire the right consultant, who has both the intellectual and practical tools to answer the right questions. Too often, consultants claim to be a jack of all trades while they are masters of none. Unfortunately, operators or suppliers being “burned” by individuals or teams of consulting charlatans makes the job of legitimate consultants all the more difficult, due to the layer of distrust that may have been laid.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?
Hiring a consultant is a step in forming a relationship. Before the hiring party and consultant engage, ensure that mutual respect has been established and will continue throughout the consulting process. Candid communication is necessary. Contrary opinions might (and probably should) arise, but both parties need to “play fair” in a disagreement and remain respectful.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?
Consultants are not magicians. At best, they are talented mechanics. Also, if they show you work they have done for a prior client (without explicit permission from said client), one should question their ability to maintain confidentiality.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Matt Robinson of Minneapolis-based KlasRobinson advised, “Never write or say anything to a client unless you would swear to the statement’s veracity in a court of law.” This advice was and is influential because it reminds me that inaccurate reporting is often the predecessor to clients losing confidence. When clients lose confidence in the consultant’s ability to perform his duties correctly (i.e., get his facts straight), the reputation of the consultant—his only true selling point—may be damaged.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
I was advised to “write down in your report observations what the bosses want to read.” I knew this was off the mark as soon as I recalled my Russian history—Potemkin village, anyone? Enabling bad decisions may help somebody keep a job short term, but it decays personal and professional credibility.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
I am cognizant of my limitations. A consultant service is only practical if the consultant is sensible. If I cannot do something, I will freely admit this. If there is someone who can handle a client’s request better than I can, then I will openly suggest using this resource. I am not in the business of fakery.

What type of fee structure do you use?
I typically use a flat rate per project or time-base/per hour fees depending on scale and scope. A few core customers also have an agreement with me based on retainer fees.

A client once asked for advice on whether he should proceed with a project. After performing due diligence and completing my analysis, I called him and asked whether he wanted the $1 answer or the $100 answer. “What’s the difference?” he queried.

I told him, “For $1, I will tell you the answer whether to proceed is no. For $100, I will tell you why the answer is no.” An enlightened client comprehends the immediate cost but long-term benefit of paying the $100.

JACK BRESLIN, G.A. WRIGHT MARKETING INC.

Years in Gaming: 24

Years Consulting: 6

Areas of Expertise: We provide proven direct marketing programs, including strategic consultation, data analytics, direct mail, e-mail, website development and full creative design, for all types of operations in the gaming industry.

Notable Clients: Chickasaw Enterprises, Osage Million Dollar Elm, Santa Ana Star, Atlantis Resort, Century Casinos.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?

First, an extensive background that includes holding key marketing/advertising positions in the gaming industry, from Atlantic City to Colorado. Also, six years in a marketing consulting role for dozens of casinos at G.A. Wright Marketing.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?

Regardless of a casino’s size or location, we are seeing a very similar scenario—the same volume of players but less play per person. Clearly, the economy is a key factor regarding this consistent trend. However, many properties are minimizing the impact with smart direct marketing initiatives designed to bring their better players back and provide value to them.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
As experienced and successful as operators are, it’s very difficult to know everything and be aware of the latest innovative and effective marketing initiatives. Given how much they have to deal with day-to-day, operators just don’t have the time to devote to keeping up with the newest programs. Consultants can provide invaluable knowledge and a broader perspective.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?

Know your data. Inside and out. It’s the key to successful casino marketing programs.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?
That it is a process. A consultant needs to take time to understand a property’s situation, the competitive landscape, what programs are in place, what has worked and what hasn’t, what other factors influence a player’s decision to visit a casino, etc. Every market and property is different, so time needs to be invested to determine the overall situation and provide appropriate direction.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t try to do it all. Trying to be a hero by handling every single task will only cost you in the long run. This advice helped free me up to concentrate on overall strategy and direction while delegating tasks to others who had specific expertise in those areas.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
Do it all! It may seem like a compliment when the boss says he has faith that you can handle all the myriad responsibilities associated with casino marketing, but it only compromises your ability to focus and execute each task well. Delegate or engage outside resources. You and your boss will get more done—and you’ll be happier and more productive in the long run.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 

First, G.A. Wright is the choice of many properties because of our proven track record of building player loyalty by implementing effective marketing programs with dozens of casinos. But also because our team at G.A. Wright Marketing is truly exceptional. We offer in-depth expertise, responsiveness, talent, insight and knowledge. And they’re the friendliest, nicest people I’ve known. We respect each other, our work and our clients.

What type of fee structure do you use?

It all depends on the situation and need. We have used a per-project fee structure as well as monthly or annual retainers.

Anything else you’d like to add?

As hard as it may be, casino marketers should find time to get up from the desk and walk out on the casino floor. Talk to a staff members. See how they’re doing and see what ideas they have. And then talk to a few players. Ask how they like your newest promotion or restaurant menu or tournament. The staff and players are the keys to your success. All the marketing and advertising in the world will only get guests in the door. The staff has to treat them well and the players have to like what you’re doing in order for them to come back. It’s that simple.

MARSHALL ANDREW, WHITESAND CONSULTING

Years in Gaming: 15

Years Consulting: 1

Areas of Expertise: Gaming and hospitality, strategic planning, technology evaluation and selection, management and operations; tribal and domestic.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?
Years of experience both within and outside the gaming industry, having implemented several successful business systems, and a track record of accomplishments helping drive revenues and cost savings through proper use of technology.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?
There has been an increase in consulting needs over the past 12–18 months. I attribute this to cost-cutting and paying for projects delivered; a need for industry knowledge which I feel is lacking, and more effective use of technology; and needing people who “have been there, done that.”

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?
Set priorities on projects, measure expected results, identify the benefit to the business, and apply necessary resources to projects to ensure success.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Prioritize, plan, test, train, implement. Use the synergy of the entire organization to get “buy-in” and ensure success.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
Hurry up and get it done. Install it now and make it work. Failure to follow a proven methodology for success will have an everlasting negative impact on your customers. Not having the time to properly test and train is a formula for disaster. Senior management must be more involved in IT projects to understand the challenges and scope of many of these projects. It’s not just “pushing a button” and we are good to go.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 

I have 15 years experience in and out of the industry with a proven track record of success. This includes strategic planning, application selection and internal business system development.

What type of fee structure do you use?
It depends on the scope of the project: hourly for projects less than two to four weeks and fixed cost for projects one month or longer.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Look for consultants with expertise who can be facilitators and mentors to the IT team as well as the operations team. You pay for experience and accomplishments.

CLAUDIA R. WINKLER, G.H.I. SOLUTIONS, INC

Years in Gaming: 21

Years Consulting: 8

Areas of Expertise: We have a proven track record in the gaming and hospitality industry identifying, developing and deploying the tools and strategies required to successfully manage information technology projects and organizations. We help casinos successfully manage the world of large technical systems, including information technology assessments; system selection, requirements definition and gap analysis for clients seeking to upgrade or replace their existing solutions; system selection and systems implementation project management, including RFP (Request for Proposal) design based on industry best practices and client functional requirements; merger and acquisition due diligence; transition services/change of control IT project management; software development and integration support, including defining business and functional requirements; strategic information technology leadership; and evaluation and selection of all systems that are required to operate a successful gaming and hospitality enterprise, for tribal and commercial casinos, domestic and international.

Notable Clients: The Navegante Group, The Innovation Group, Chumash Casino Resort, Avi Casino Resort, Olympia Gaming and Wynn Resorts.


What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?

Extensive experience as an operator, a vendor and a consultant. Being able to address a problem or opportunity from all perspectives and having been on all sides of the table allows us to address and relate to each stakeholder’s needs.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?
Don’t trip over dimes to save nickels. It’s better to spend a little more upfront than to have to “redo” later.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?
We are committed to delivering exceptional results based on a defined statement of work.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
To start my own consulting practice because it’s the best decision I ever made. I love what I do.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
If I ever got any bad advice, I guess I ignored it!

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
We have a tremendous network of clients, vendors and industry professionals that we can leverage. We deliver. All our projects are referencable.

What type of fee structure do you use?
It depends on the project and the client’s budget.

BILL ZENDER, LAST RESORT CONSULTING

Years in Gaming:
 Since 1976—more than 30 years

Years Consulting: I’ve turned to gaming consulting a number of times in my career, the first time in 1982 when I consulted for the Oregon State Attorney’s office. In 1998 I re-entered the gaming consulting business after participating as a principal share holder and officer with JMJ Inc., the corporation that operated the Aladdin Hotel/Casino from 1992 through 1997. Since 2005, the gaming consulting field has been my only interest.

Areas of Expertise: My expertise is across the board in gaming, however, a majority of my work involves operational evaluation of live gaming; turnkey managerial training; and classroom training regarding gaming mathematics, card counting and game protection. [I specialize in] mostly tribal and domestic [casinos], however, based on my expertise in Asian gaming, I do have overseas experience in the Far East and Australia.

Notable Clients: Ameristar Casinos; Station Casinos; Colorado Division of Gaming; Piercy, Bowler, Taylor, and Kerns CPA; British Columbia Lottery Commission; Treasure Island Resort; Hard Rock Las Vegas; Banc LLC; Great Canadian Gaming Corporation; Artichoke Joe’s Casino; Mohegan Sun Casino; GEMACO Card Company; Planet Hollywood Casino; Riviera Hotel/Casino; Lucky Eagle Casino.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?
There are a number of reasons clients can trust in my judgment:

•    More than 30 years in gaming
•    My technical experience as an owner and instructor at PCI Dealing School
•    My casino executive experience as vice president at the Aladdin Hotel/Casino
•    My card room experience as the interim general manager at the Casino San Pablo and as a long-term consultant to Artichoke Joe’s Casino
•    My experience in law enforcement as an agent with the Nevada Gaming Control Board
•    My time spent as a professional card counter and card player
•    My experience as an expert witness on numerous court cases, both criminal and civil
•    Through my improved analytical skills when I achieve a Master’s Degree in Business in 2004

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?
I’ve experienced a severe decrease in requests for game protection and management training seminars. However, I’ve gained many new jobs conducting operational evaluations of live table games at various casinos. During tough economic times, progressive-minded executives are looking for methods to improve their games’ performance and gain more revenue from the business that is available.


Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 

For most operators, this is a tough decision. When funds are limited and the economy is still unpredictable, spending money on non-essential expenses is considered a poor business decision. However, when the casino continues to experience declines in revenue, management has to look toward recovery methods other than spending wasted money on marketing or making damaging cuts to operational expenses. Optimizing game and general operational performance is the only reasonable alternative, and in most cases, this strategy needs the advice and expertise of someone outside the organization.


If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?

During tough economic times look toward your organization’s core values. What makes your organization strong? What about your operation will attract customers? Right now every gaming venue should be vying for the customer’s limited entertainment dollars. My clients need to think, “How can I increase the entertainment value of my casino floor?”

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?
An efficient consultant must analyze the client’s problem, make suggestions as to how the problem can be mitigated, how the changes needed to mitigate the problem need to be implemented, and finally, the consultant needs to measure the results to ensure that the changes succeeded in fulfilling the client’s goals. The client needs to understand that the job is not finished once the report lands on the executive’s deck. The client needs to understand the true root of the problem and buy into the solution. Once they understand the problem and solution, the client needs to follow through with the recommended changes. Many casino executives fail to follow through with the solution.


What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

My dad told me that every client should be treated as if “I” was the client. What would I want the consultant to accomplish if I owned the business? What would I consider to be a job well done?

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
Because I can get the job done!


What type of fee structure do you use?

I use both per-job and per-hour structures. If I don’t know the extent of the job, or how much time it will take to complete the job, I use the hourly structure. Personally, I like to charge per project. Using this method, the client knows exactly what they are spending prior to the beginning of the engagement.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I did some work for a card room third-party proposition group in Southern California. After working with the managing partner for several days, he confided in me that, based on my help, he had gotten his first full night’s sleep in three months. That’s when I knew I had accomplished something special.

JEFF SIMON, IGT

Years in Gaming: 25

Areas of Expertise: We provide marketing, business operations and technical services. Within each of these areas, we provide consulting services (short-term engagements), managed services (long-term, outsourced business functions), and supplemental training (classroom, one-on-one coaching, web-based and custom courseware). We understand and provide services for all categories of casino operators.

Notable Clients: MGM Mirage, Harrah’s, Wynn, Akwesasne Mohawk Casino, Isle of Capri.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?

Our group is comprised of talented and experienced casino marketing, operations and IT experts. They understand the casino operations business from firsthand experience and have developed effective methods for delivering solutions that improve overall business operations.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?

We have seen a substantial increase in professional services requests. I believe it is because we are focused on providing ROI-based solutions. Our value proposition helps operators increase revenue or decrease expenses. That’s a model that is in high demand right now and is effective in any economy.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 

I think operators need to hire the right type of consultants—those who specifically help them with their short-term challenges and opportunities. It’s more important than ever to make sure there is a tangible, measurable ROI for every dollar spent. Everyone needs to operate efficiently and effectively.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?

Spend your consulting dollars wisely. Make sure there is an easy-to-understand, obvious value that is being proposed. Start with a small project and see for yourself how well the consultant performs. There is no time or money to waste, so make careful fact- or data-based decisions.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?
While general concepts are universal, every client faces specific challenges and opportunities. Consultants capture requirements up front in order to truly understand the nature of the situation and subsequently propose, design and implement operator-specific solutions.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Spend your customer’s money as though it’s your own. Make sure all proposed solutions are sound and that you would be comfortable spending your own money on the same solution if the roles were reversed. It’s all about building relationships based on integrity, trust and respect. Once this is established, it’s a straightforward and efficient partnership.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve been very fortunate to work with mentors who have given me sound advice. However, I do remember working with some very smart, well-educated people during the dot com bubble who thought you could run a business without revenue. Needless to say, that concept was quickly proven wrong.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
We have the talent and expertise to deliver solutions that make sense. We have in-depth industry expertise, product knowledge and an innate understanding of the consulting business. This enables us to be creative yet efficient as we implement proven and custom solutions for casino operators.

What type of fee structure do you use?
We provide multiple options for pricing to accommodate our customers’ requirements. We currently offer the following options: time and materials, fixed price, and retainer-based fee structures.

PETER C. YESAWICH JR.,  DIGITAL EVANGELIST

Years in Gaming: 5

Years Consulting: 3

Areas of Expertise: Turn-key solutions for hospitality clients in the digital space. No logos, no sizzle, just results focused in interactive design, search engine marketing, SEO, mobile marketing, social networking marketing, viral marketing, podcasts, e-mail design, e-mail marketing, web analytics, digital photography, influencer marketing, database development, online animation, game design, game development, online media placement, interactive media planning, customer relationship management, restructuring, corporate marketing strategy, integrated analysis, reporting and optimization for commercial, tribal and foreign gaming.

Notable Clients: The Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Hilton International, Marriott International, Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, and multiple Native American tribal organizations.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?
The ability to decipher complex marketing issues, ultimately driving tangible results. The game of marketing and advertising is not what it was even five years ago. The ability to constantly engage and evolve with emerging technologies and then passing the education to clients gives me a leg up above the rest. Ultimately, this knowledge benefits the entire organization. Clients, as a result, become smarter, faster and more agile within the digital space, giving them strong competitive advantages and differentiation strategies.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?
Both. I believe the impacts are variant based on many different factors—geography, player retention initiatives, marketing outreach strategy, political issues and even socio-economic factors.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 

In my field, absolutely. There has never been a better or more demanding time to leverage digital, since traditional marketing is dying a slow, painful, expensive death. Most agencies that work with casinos have a taste of interactive but not enough to help create a strategic road map that navigates toward success. Most agencies are in a race to see who can get the sexiest client and the biggest budget. I am the opposite. I strive to work with people and organizations that are focused on driving real results by focusing on creating segments of one, as opposed to mass marketing. The reality is that there are many factors shifting. Customers are more tech savvy than ever; they demand digital, and the way in which they engage brands has completely filp-flopped from direct mail and billboards to hyper-relevant mediums such as search, social and mobile. Most marketing, advertising and public relations strategies are long outdated, and there is an arms race to reinvent they way we talk, listen and interact with customers.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?
Never stop learning and educating. Knowledge is power, and I know that is cliché, but it’s the honest truth. Don’t be scared to be curious and ask questions—a lot of questions. Be sure to question conventional thinking and reasoning in everything you do. Make sure you have an insatiable appetite to learn more everyday. Be sure you diversify your news sources and never be afraid to ask for help.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?

Results and change do not occur overnight. Yes, you (the client) are working hard, but chances are, we are working harder. Consultation is not a one-night stand. The best results are generated when true due diligence is completed on both ends and goals are clearly mapped out. Consultation is not a means to an end, more so a journey that takes time, patience and energy. I like to remind my clients that they are investing in a true partnership, though “partnership” in my business is overused and meaningless. We are not truly engaged in a “partnership” until we have full confidence in one another, trust and communication.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

That’s a tough one. There is so much good advice I have received in my career. When you are young, eager and full of energy, you seem to attract more advice than you would like or need at times. I would have to say “be patient” for right now. It’s such a crazy world in business right now. It is really important for consultants and organizations to make well-calculated moves together. Make sure you never lose sight of your core competencies while also watching what the competition is doing. Make sure that any decision made is well thought out and of the time. Too much movement can make anybody sloppy, and that’s when mistakes happen.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
This space moves fast everyday. The only way you can keep up with it is by working with someone on the cutting edge of any business. I stay physically and mentally healthy in order to always be blogging, traveling and speaking. In addition, I tap my networks to get the latest in trends so I can pass my learnings to my client. I want to be thought of as a “digital mentor” of sorts. I want clients to focus on their job, but I want them to keep up with me and step out of their comfort zone.

What type of fee structure do you use?
Most of my clients are on a retainer basis. With all of my clients, I am allocating banks of hours as they relate to specific deliverables. Depending upon how much and how frequently I need to travel, as well as work with other constituents within an organization, this can change. There is not a one-size-fits-all structure that I abide by. Each client is unique, and I need to respect that. I am sure that I work to their liking in every relationship. My goal is to exceed expectations, not just meet them. Additionally, most of my service agreements are six to 12 months in length. This builds a runway so that we can drive results in the best possible time and budget fashion.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I think successful business and consulting gigs are a result of being yourself. The reality is that people either want to work with you or they don’t for a whole list of reasons. It’s critical to remember that you should always be yourself and have fun. Traditionally, gaming has been a very conservative industry to conduct business within. I guess that is why I am the guy with jeans on at conferences. Be sure to have fun.


HARVEY B. PERKINS, JOSEPH WEINERT
SPECTRUM GAMING GROUP

Years in Gaming: Harvey, 31; Joseph, 14

Years Consulting: Harvey, 5; Joseph, 6

Areas of Expertise: All areas of economic and governmental research and consulting, domestic, foreign, tribal and commercial: restructurings and distressed properties/acquisition services; market and feasibility studies; economic impact reports; gaming regulatory services; investigations and due diligence (financial and integrity); legal support service; casino services; professional services for Indian nations; new technology services; conference production; publications.

Notable Clients: Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority; Boyd Gaming Corp.; Broward County, Florida; Casino Association of New Jersey; Commissioner of Financial Institutions – Puerto Rico; Connecticut Division of Special Revenue; Credit Suisse; Gila River Indian Community; Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association; Hard Rock Hotel; Harrah’s Entertainment; House of Blues; International Game Technology; Jefferies & Co.; Las Vegas Sands; Maine State Gambling Control Board; Maryland Lottery Commission; Massachusetts Office of Housing and Economic Development; The Netherlands Gaming Control Agency; Oneida Indian Nation; Pennsylvania Department of Revenue; Philippine Amusement and Gaming Control Corp.; Pinnacle Entertainment; Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians; Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Gaming Division; Rostov Oblast government, Russia; St. Lucia Gaming Authority; San Jose, Calif., Office of City Manager; Seneca Nation of Indians; Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs; Trump Entertainment Resorts; U.S. Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission; West Virginia Lottery.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?

HP: Thirty-one years of practical and analytical gaming executive experience and the understanding of how all the pieces interact and influence each other.
JW: Our experience, our integrity and our independence.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?

HP & JW: In some areas, there has been a slight decrease due to the freezing of capital markets. But overall, our business has increased despite the recession, as governments, investors and developers seek reliable research, analysis and consulting services to capitalize on the expansion of casino gaming.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
HP: It’s a great time to have an independent point of view interjected to be positioned to optimize the opportunities of a recovery.
JW: Indeed, they do. Because the recession has substantially increased the investment risk, investors, operators and developers are demanding detailed research and analysis from a third-party firm such as Spectrum.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?

HP: Don’t listen entirely to your internal staff of echoes. Seek out diversified independent thinking.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?

HP: It needs to have a focus and direction that is independent and truth seeking. Don’t dismiss the outcomes if they disagree with your world views.
JW: We will arrive at findings and conclusions that you need to know, but they may not necessarily be what you want to hear.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

HP: “Most executives do a great deal of ‘thoughting.’ They should really be thinking.” It’s a very powerful statement given the great deal of intuitive-based decisions we see being made in the gaming industry. A firm grasp of your key business metrics combined with logic and research will serve you much better in the long run than “thoughting.”
JW: Tell the truth, whether your clients want to hear it or not. In the end, this is what they need to know.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?

HP: A major gaming CEO told me eight years ago that penny slots would never be successful and that I should focus on the core dollar slot market instead. Current slot floor production nationwide has proved that to be terrible advice!
JW: “The bottom line is everything.” I long ago recognized this is a bad approach; put customer service first and then the bottom line will take care of itself.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
HP: All of our work is custom from the ground up. We never recycle any information contained in previous reports. Additionally, we never tell a client what they want to hear; we tell clients what they need to know in order to make well-substantiated decisions.
JW: Spectrum has an unmatched combination of experience, independence, integrity and breadth of services. There is no other firm in the world that provides the scope of services that we do. We place our independence and integrity above all, and as such we avoid all conflicts of interest and do not engage in investment banking, capital development, securities research, project management or construction services.

What type of fee structure do you use?

HP & JW: For private sector clients, we base our fees on the projected number of hours required to complete the job and which staff members and associates will be participating.


JAMES KLAS, MATTHEW ROBINSON
KLASROBINSON Q.E.D.

Years in Gaming: Working together for 16 years, with more than 45 years of combined experience in the hospitality industry.

Areas of Expertise: KlasRobinson Q.E.D. provides market research, financial feasibility analysis, economic impact analysis, litigation support and other development consulting to tribal governments, casino developers and others involved in Indian gaming and economic development projects in Indian country.

Notable Clients:
 We have provided consulting services to more than 200 different tribes. Some of the projects in which we were involved that have recently opened include the Downstream Casino Resort in Oklahoma, the new hotel at Chukchansi Gold in California, and the various expansions at Silver Reef Casino Spa Hotel in Washington

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?

The depth and breadth of our experience in Indian gaming, the direct involvement of the partners of the firm in every project, and our flexibility and creativity in assessing unique situations make us ideally qualified to meet the needs of our clients.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?
Our business has been steady to higher over the past 18 to 24 months, even as many areas in our industry have suffered. Although the pursuit of large-scale expansion in the industry has slowed, the need for assistance in determining the most cost-effective and potentially profitable smaller, phased expansion plans has increased.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
In tougher economic times, the stakes are higher and the questions and alternatives are more complex. Expert assistance can be particularly important in such times to bring a fresh outside perspective and to free management to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of day-to-day operations rather than sitting in their offices or in planning meetings.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?

Service is the first, last and most important determinant of success. Our work is on the development and analytical side, not in service training, and we like to consider our work to be important to our client’s success. However, nothing is more important, especially in a tougher economy, than consistently high-quality service.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?

It is best done as a partnership, a collaborative process. We will never know as much about your operation as you do. However, we can bring the value of seeing dozens, even hundreds, of facilities, operational methods, development ideas, marketing initiatives and analytical tools to give you a fresh, broad-picture perspective to the issues that you face.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
The rather harsh and Darwinian perspective that “you only eat what you kill.” That is, if you are simply sitting back and relying on others to find or create business opportunities, and only serving in a supporting role to help realize them, you are in no position to complain about the size of your portion.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
That you must “look the part” to be effective. Not that anyone should be sloppy and careless in how they approach their work or their clients. But in the end, the suit, the car, the brochure or the initials after the name don’t get the job done; it takes real work.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 
Our comprehensive approach ensures accountability through the direct, absolute and exclusive involvement of the principals in each project, including meetings, market research, analysis, report writing and presentation.

What type of fee structure do you use?
Where the scope of work is definable and has a specific end product, we use a flat fee plus expenses. Where the scope is likely to change or evolve, or where the needs are open-ended, we bill at an hourly rate plus expenses.

Anything else you’d like to add?
It has been and continues to be tremendously rewarding to us to see the positive changes that Indian gaming has brought to tribal communities. We are proud to actively support NIGA through our associate membership and participation in various activities. We encourage anyone doing business in Indian gaming to join NIGA as an associate member and help the industry continue to flourish to the benefit of all.

BART A. LEWIN, CONSULTANT

Years in Gaming: 22

Years Consulting: 8

Areas of Expertise: IT management consulting, database architecture, statistical modeling, CRM technology, gaming system design and implementation, game design and manufacturing, website design and marketing, custom software design and development, due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, expert witness testimony, (specializing in patents), independent technology quality assurance, and intellectual property development and management for domestic and foreign commercial clients.

Notable clients: Technology Assurance Laboratory Inc. (founder/partner); 1010Data Inc.; New Wave Automation; Multimedia Games Inc.; Business Intelligence System Solutions; O’Melveney & Myers LLP; Hollywood Park Casino Inc.; Southern California University for Professional Studies; Southern Bank of Vietnam; O’Reilly Law Group LLC; Station Casinos Inc.; Blue Haven Pools LLC; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP; GHI Solutions LLC; TableMAX Inc.; Las Vegas Sands Corporation; Guardian Gaming LLC; Isis Hospitality LLC; Galaxy Entertainment Group.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?
I believe my most important quality to influence others’ important decisions is the fact that I have made so many mistakes in so many areas and then have made the most of the consequences. I have been rewarded by these experiences with a finely honed wisdom for finding practical solutions to complex problems.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?

My overall business has not decreased much, but the volatility of my revenue stream has increased. Rather than working a few long-term projects, I find that I am asked to do more short-term engagements. I believe that this is due to the fact that many businesses, having already picked the low-lying fruit in cost cutting and efficiency increases, are now reaching for the higher branches. These efforts are narrower in nature—rifle shots instead of shotgun blasts.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
Now more than ever, businesses need to spend their money wisely. In my experience, businesses are well aware of the advantages and disadvantages of consultants, and they should carefully perform the steps required to decide whether or not to supplement their in-house resources with well-chosen outside resources. Personally, in any economy, I only want to work on projects where I can make a significant and cost-effective contribution and will provide a prospect with an honest assessment in this area.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?

Do not try to outsmart the fundamentals. This may sound trite, but one of my first steps on any engagement is to make sure all of the fundamentals are in place. Have we agreed upon what the best possible outcome for the project is? Are we having regular project management meetings? Have we created a budget for this project?

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?

To obtain the best results, consultants require clear direction and appropriate management.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Fundamentals again—always be ethical and honest; make public what you know and what you do not know. These are the most important things you can do to simplify your life and ensure you will always have work.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?

Many times I am asked to be something I am not, like trying to sell something I don’t really believe in or behaving in a fashion that doesn’t come naturally. This just never works out for me.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 

I should be hired when a customer’s internal selection process has determined that I am the best one for the job—period.

What type of fee structure do you use?

I work on an hourly basis (in tenth of an hour increments) or on a fixed-fee project basis.
My engagements may be terminated at any time, given 24 hours notice.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m really not as hardboiled as these answers make me sound.

LARRY J. WOOLF, NAVEGANTE GROUP INC.

Years in Gaming: 40+

Years Consulting: 15

Areas of Expertise: Hotel, resort and casino management, development and consulting for Native American properties, land-based casinos and riverboats both domestically and abroad.

Notable Clients: MGM, Galaxy Entertainment, Venetian, Ontario Casino Corporation, Caesars, AMZ Holdings, Mirage, Star Bay Casino, Park Place Entertainment, Fort Amador, Harrah’s, Crown Casino, Sahara Casino (SBE Entertainment), Sonco Gaming, Butler National Corporation, Grey Eagle Casino, JP Morgan (Reno-Grand Sierra Resort), Cranbrook Casino, Merrill Lynch, Merritt Casino, Stockbridge Real Estate, Campbell River, IGT, Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp, Creek Nation, British Columbia Lottery Commission, Equity Ventures, New Brunswick Lotteries & Gaming Corp., Stark Investments, Singapore Casino Delegation, Konover Holdings, CB Richard Ellis/CBRE, Morgan’s Hotel Group, Tarsadia Hotels, Santa Ana Star Casino, Kansas Racing & Gaming Commission.

What uniquely qualifies you to influence others’ decisions?
More than 40 years of gaming industry experience, from change person to CEO, and understanding the nuances of the various jurisdictions and political environments.

Have you noticed changes in the demand for consulting due to the down economy?
Across the board business is down, and the general consensus attributes this to high unemployment, the housing market woes and the tight financial markets. Economic downturns will lead to a decrease in patronage, but at the same time create many great opportunities. For example, in good times operations seem to hum right along and business is normal—no need for change. In bad times it forces management to become more creative at generating and retaining business, as well as to review operational aspects for better efficiencies. Both methods should be a part of normal business operations in good times and bad, but in good times we tend to lose our creative edge and become stagnant in the day-to-day operational aspects. Bad economic times motivate creativity.

Do you think operators and suppliers need consultants now more than ever? 
Whether good times or bad, it can never hurt to have an experienced outside professional conduct an out-of-the-box operational review of the revenue-generating departments and back-of-house areas. The most obscure recommendation can sometimes make a huge difference operationally or administratively.

If you could offer only one piece of advice to your customers, what would it be?

Consultants can save a property money and time and allow for a nonpolitical, nonbiased view of the areas that the they have been hired to review.

What do potential clients need to understand about the consulting process?
Consultants are retained to provide recommendations that, if accepted, need to be implemented by the client, and the success of the recommendations is dependent on the implementation. It is always beneficial to integrate the consultant to assist with, review and oversee the implementation process.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t be afraid to make a decision—sometimes no decision is worse than a bad decision. Also, do not get upset over things you cannot control—it allows me to keep a level head and the ability not to let emotions rule my decision-making process.

What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
Over the years and throughout my career I’ve had executives who told me to be tougher on the staff, that “This isn’t a popularity contest.” This advice never did work for me, and that is not who I am. Our employees are our greatest asset and need to be treated professionally and with respect.

Why should a potential customer hire you? 

Consulting is not the core of our business, so typically, when we are engaged as a consultant, it is to complete high-level, high-priority objectives. When an operator gets in a bind, we are brought in to assist and normalize an operational aspect or to ensure a major objective is completed. Most recently we were retained as a consultancy to ensure a major property met specific timelines and goals to open its new property on time and as close to budget as possible. The casino has opened, and we continue to provide consulting services on an ongoing basis. This is a very large project, and we have the experience and depth of talent. Our competence, track record and ability to perform speaks for itself. We would urge any potential client to contact our past clients for references.

What type of fee structure do you use?

We utilize various methods and are flexible, but ultimately our fee structure is whatever works best for the client.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The consulting process can be beneficial to all involved. It allows onsite staff to learn new skills or enhance old ones, and it is always good to see things from a different perspective in both good times and bad. Be sure to check references thoroughly, and subscribe to Casino Enterprise Management for all the latest and greatest information!

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