Have you noticed?
NBC’s coverage of the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina included a segment on the significant economic contributions being made by the casino gaming industry to the resurgence along the Gulf Coast. Articles in USA Today, The New York Times and by the Associated Press also painted a positive picture of how our industry is helping to foster a comeback in the aftermath of Katrina.
Gary Loveman, president and CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., and chairman of the AGA board of directors, appeared on CNBC’s popular “Squawk on the Street” program and, among other things, discussed the business profile of our industry.
The Philadelphia Inquirer dedicated half a page to an opinion piece by Phil Satre, chairman of the National Center for Responsible Gaming, in which he laid out in detail the contributions of the casino industry to research on gambling disorders that have made it possible to better understand this malady and promote responsible gaming.
Activities during Responsible Gaming Week (August 6-10) received wide and positive press coverage, and a responsible gaming article we offered to the press has generated 76 total placements, including print and Web stories. The combined circulation of these media outlets is about 37,500, with total readership close to 150,000.
These are just a few examples indicating that the aggressive and proactive media outreach effort launched by the American Gaming Association (AGA) at the beginning of this year is beginning to make an impact. Of course, the AGA can’t take full credit for these positive notices. The commercial casino industry is filled with top-notch communications professionals who have successfully been promoting their companies’ and our industry’s contributions for decades, and they played a large role in educating these – and many other – reporters, and they continue to do so.
But there is a change in the air. As I wrote on these pages a few months ago, education about our industry is essential to its continued success. Education of the media is especially critical, since so many people – customers, community leaders, legislators – turn to the news to gather the facts that help them formulate their judgments about issues important to their lives. A reporter who doesn’t understand the facts can yield a public that is equally misguided.
The continued expansion of gaming into new jurisdictions, coupled with the increasingly diverse entertainment options offered at our casinos, has exposed more people than ever to our industry. It also has meant that more reporters than ever are, at one point or another in their careers, writing about casinos. The goal of our renewed industrywide commitment to media outreach is to educate these reporters about the real impact of gaming and all it has to offer our customers as well as our communities.
Our efforts, in concert with those of the communications professionals at our member companies, have been largely successful thus far, and in the coming months, the AGA will begin rolling out even more programs to further our goals.
Among these projects is The Real Deal, a new “microsite” section of the AGA Web site that will provide the media and other interested parties with a perspective on our industry they have not had in the past. The goal of the site is to expand the conversation about gaming entertainment and provide a forum for analysis and insights on a variety of issues. We will be providing hard-hitting, positive information about how our business is creating prosperity within communities across the country, as well as rebutting in a very public forum the false information that others might inject into conversations about our industry.
The Real Deal will include commentary from AGA and industry executives, as well as links to third-party research and information on subjects receiving media attention. We plan to frequently update the site, and users can sign up to receive e-mail notices when no content is added. This is going to be a full court press to fully and accurately represent how we are contributing to the success of the nation’s economy and the local communities where we operate.
We also are working to identify national speaking opportunities for key industry executives so that we can highlight our industry’s accomplishments among the broader business community. The commercial gaming industry has emerged as a global leader in technological innovation, marketing, healthcare and other employee benefits, and a host of additional business arenas. We’re going to be seeking out new and unique venues in which our experts can share these success stories and educate other business leaders about just how forward-thinking our industry has become. We will be identifying the most prestigious and widely covered venues in the country and placing our people – casino gaming executives, industry stakeholders, scholars and others – on the dais, in boardrooms and news rooms to talk about who we are, what we do and how we do it.
The Real Deal and speaker’s bureau will provide mechanisms for us to act quickly and forcefully to enhance the image of our industry. We are fortunate to have the support and enthusiastic leadership of Mr. Loveman, who has encouraged the development of the AGA communications plan and has served as a spokeperson with the energy and passion that demonstrates to the media and others the belief we have in our industry.
Indeed, we should be encouraged by the successes we have had and prepared to take it up a notch as the various elements of our communications plan are put into effect. Be on the look out for The Real Deal, which will provide resources you can use to promote a campaign of your own. Be ready to set straight any bad information when you see it creep into reports on casino gaming.
Our industry has a tremendous story to tell. I look forward to working with all our member companies to share the good news.