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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson

Jeff Simpson on the importance of employment diversity in the casino industry

16 October 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Harrah's Entertainment Chairman and Chief Executive Gary Loveman told me Thursday that he expects his company to soon publicly release its diversity numbers.

I talked with Loveman before Thursday's diversity breakfast at a joint meeting of the Urban, Latin and Asian chambers of commerce at the MGM Grand. When I asked him why his company didn't publicly release the numbers, Loveman said that the company does disclose its diversity numbers for employment, construction spending and purchasing, but only to state regulators.

When I told him that competitor MGM Mirage releases its numbers in a public report, while most competitors - such as Harrah's - don't, Loveman said he didn't see any reason why Harrah's wouldn't publicly release its numbers and said he thought his company would soon do so.

I take particular interest in casino industry diversity. I think the industry has made great strides in terms of diversifying its hiring and spending, with much progress yet to be achieved, particularly in terms of hiring top black, Hispanic, Asian and women executives.

Without the hard numbers, we in the media can't measure the industry's progress, or lack thereof.

Certainly diversity is about more than mere numbers, but the numbers are the best way to measure an improving culture that values contributions from all people in our community.

Six years ago I wrote the first stories about MGM Mirage's diversity shortcomings, reporting on criticism Las Vegas civil rights advocates leveled against the company and its Chief Executive Terry Lanni.

Since then I've reported on MGM Mirage's diversity turnaround as it, with Lanni's leadership, became an acknowledged diversity leader - not just in the gaming business but in Corporate America.

Although a last-minute conflict prevented Lanni from appearing Thursday, he's told me many times that he's thankful for the criticism he and the company received in 2000, saying that it prompted what has proven to be a complete transformation of the company's culture.

• • •

At Thursday's breakfast Boyd Gaming Chairman Bill Boyd singled out MGM Mirage for its leadership role on diversity. Boyd then announced a couple of eye-opening commitments that should boost the valley's minority business community. First, Boyd Gaming plans to pay to provide workers' compensation insurance and general liability insurance for all contractors on its $4 billion Echelon Place project, a gesture that he said would level the playing field between smaller minority-owned contractors and bigger competitors.

Second, Boyd promised to match up to $500 in first-year dues for Clark County-based minority- and women-owned businesses that join the Urban, Latin and Asian chambers of commerce.

Those are impressive commitments, and Boyd deserves praise for them.

• • •

Loveman supplied a couple of moments of levity during the breakfast. After Lanni stand-in MGM Grand President Gamal Aziz described his company's $7 billion-plus CityCenter project and the significant amount of contracting business that has been awarded to minority-owned companies and Boyd announced his company's generous commitments, Loveman was the last to field a question about how his own company would ensure minority participation in its projects.

First, Loveman said that the MGM Mirage and Boyd projects have captured all the available construction workers, and that all Harrah's has is one worker.

"And we have him painting the Barbary Coast," Loveman quipped, referring to the property Harrah's will soon acquire in trade from Boyd in exchange for 24 acres north of the Stardust. "And then we're going to trade the Barbary Coast for CityCenter - straight-up," Loveman cracked to a ballroom full of laughter.

Jeff Simpson on the importance of employment diversity in the casino industry is republished from