There is no such thing as an easy issue for the gaming industry. In five years’ time, at least, I haven’t encountered one. Whether it’s been problem gambling, a federal tax on the industry, a proposal to target deadbeat parents by garnishing casino winnings, a crusade to ban legal wagering on college sports, or yet another government report trying to find negative consequences from gaming, the high-profile and controversial nature of our business makes us easy targets.
It’s not surprising, then, as we wrap up another session of Congress and another year refuting misinformation from gambling opponents, that we face additional challenges on new fronts. One of the most talked-about - both within the gaming industry and among society as a whole - has been the subject of diversity. While this is not a new issue for many of our companies, it is an issue that we as an industry recognize is an important one that must be addressed in an ongoing, comprehensive way.
Just over a decade ago, we were present in only two states, employing just close to 167,000 people and generating gross revenue of approximately $8 billion. Today, we have grown to be a national economic force. We operate in 11 states. Our revenues have more than doubled. And we generate jobs for more than a million people.
But with this growth comes new responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to make sure we are providing ample opportunities at all levels of our companies for people from all backgrounds, reflecting the diversity of our communities. In Detroit, for example, African-Americans represent 59 percent of the total work force at MGM Grand Detroit, compared to 55 percent of the city population. Additionally, $38.6 million in goods and services were purchased from majority black enterprises. At Motor City, minorities make up 56 percent of the work force; 40 percent of all managers and officials are minorities. Likewise, when Harrah’s New Orleans Casino opened last year, 27 percent of managers and professionals and 59 percent of supervisors were minorities. And in Atlantic City, the industry far exceeded state mandates, with minorities holding 29 percent of all top-level jobs and 46 percent of all professional positions.
Because some of the newer gaming jurisdictions had not shared in the economic prosperity experienced elsewhere in the country, our companies established programs to train largely unskilled labor markets, preparing them for entry-level jobs, many with comprehensive benefits. Grand Casinos, Inc. created the Adopt-A-Town program in 1997, working in partnership with the local community in Tunica, Miss., to provide the training and other support needed by residents to gain employment. Today, the program provides an annual payroll of $2 million to Marks, Miss., and $1 million to Jonestown, Miss. And in Atlantic City, N.J., Atlantic City First, a training program that began this summer funded by the 12 local casinos, will help the chronically unemployed receive life-skills training to prepare them for jobs with the industry.
While we think this is a good start for a relatively new industry that has experienced enormous growth during the past decade, we recognize that we, like many other industries, can do more. With that in mind, we began the process of developing a blueprint for the future that will help us expand opportunities for minorities. Part of that plan was the establishment of a Diversity Task Force to address minority employment issues, including recruitment, retention and advancement, as well as minority purchasing. The task force, which includes high-ranking officials from our major companies in areas such as human resources, community affairs, government affairs and public affairs, already has adopted a plan of action that includes the creation of a human resources subcommittee that will work to standardize industry data under existing EEO categories so we can establish benchmarks and goals for the future. The task force also will be compiling a resource guide that will highlight our industry’s best practices on diversity issues so they can be shared and adopted by other companies.
Whether it’s for a position as a dealer or director of finance, our companies have worked to create new economic opportunities for minority groups that have been underrepresented in our work force. The casino industry is committed to continuing this effort. But this is not a process that can happen overnight. Like any other industry, we have operational as well as societal obstacles to overcome. However, we have taken what we feel are important steps in the right direction. As we move forward, we hope to work together with minority community leaders to help achieve our shared goals.