According to the 2000 Census, about one-quarter of the U.S. population are minorities, with additional sources noting that minority buying power has grown by nearly 100 percent over the past decade. The gaming customer base has reflected this shift in buying power, making it even more important for our industry to make diversity a priority. In order to keep pace with a changing customer base in an increasingly global marketplace, attention to diversity issues is no longer just important—it is a business imperative.
The AGA cemented its long-time commitment to diversity in 2000 with the creation of our Diversity Task Force. The task force was borne out of the realization that, while individual companies could point to impressive accomplishments on the diversity front, the industry as a whole lacked a singular vision and direction on the issue.
Since its inception, the mission of the task force has been to respect and promote diversity in all aspects of the gaming industry. After three years, I am proud to say that our work to promote diversity is not only keeping pace with our counterparts in the global entertainment industry, but, in many cases, we are leading the way. This year, the AGA is committing more than $80,000 to diversity issues, which will lead to some of our most exciting projects and accomplishments to date.
The task force is particularly focused on promoting diversity within the human resources and purchasing and contracting arenas. In addition to workshops and training seminars, one of the most significant early projects of the Diversity Task Force was our 2001 partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to collect and aggregate commercial casino employment data to obtain a baseline measurement of the current state of diversity in the industry. This type of equal employment opportunity data had never before been collected.
Results of the PwC study showed that, three years ago, the gaming industry was already making significant progress in creating a diverse work force. In comparison with other industries within the recreation sector, as well as with the overall U.S. work force, the commercial casino industry surpassed employment ratios for a variety of ethnic groups, including Blacks, Asian/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans. According to the research, the 17 participating casino companies employed more than 185,000 workers in 2000. Service workers made up the largest percentage of workers in the industry, with just over 54 percent of the entire aggregate work force.
This year, we plan to commission a comprehensive update of this equal employment opportunity data so we can obtain an accurate snapshot of the state of diversity in our industry now. The 2001 study has served as a helpful baseline measurement, but annual updates are essential for us to track industry progress and measure our effectiveness in these areas. We look forward to getting an even larger number of casinos involved in this project this year and in the future.
The task force also will conduct research in 2003 leading to the establishment of standardized equal employment opportunity job classifications throughout the industry. Plans are also in the works to collect and compile data on our industry’s diversity employment practices, as well as the development and promotion of women and minority hiring guidelines and programs.
In addition to the work planned to promote diversity in human resources, the diversity task force will spearhead a number of ground-breaking projects in the purchasing and contracting arenas.
The most significant of those projects involves the collection of industrywide minority purchasing and contracting data. To date, there has been no way for us to determine our industry’s level of participation among disadvantaged and minority- and women-owned businesses. By collecting this procurement data from these companies, we will obtain a purchasing and contracting snapshot of the gaming industry. This baseline measurement will allow us to compare our progress with that of other industries and will shape our future work in this area.
Like last year, the task force will be sponsoring the Opportunity Expo at Global Gaming Expo. In its 2002 debut, Opportunity Expo provided a unique forum for disadvantaged and minority- and women-owned businesses to participate in one-on-one meetings with purchasing executives from leading worldwide gaming companies. The tremendously successful event gave smaller vendors and suppliers greater exposure to our industry, putting them on more level footing with larger, more established competitors.
As a culmination of all these efforts in 2003, the task force also has plans to develop and introduce an online diversity resource guide that will help build awareness of our efforts and serve as a tool for the industry as we continue to advance this mission. The resource guide will include an overview of our commitment to diversity issues, information on diversity initiatives and guidelines for best practices. The site will also provide vendor resource information on procurement opportunities.
As evidenced by these plans and all that we have accomplished thus far, promoting diversity in all aspects of the gaming industry is not an issue we take lightly. Our work on diversity is rooted in a firm commitment to our customers, our employees, our fellow business owners and our shareholders to promote inclusion in all our business practices. America is a complex cultural landscape, and the gaming industry will continue to push its aggressive and innovative agenda to harness the promise and build on the spirit of our diverse nation.