When the U.S. Census Bureau announced early this year its first statistics on race and ethnicity from Census 2000, its findings confirmed the growing strength of our nation’s minority population. For the first time ever, Hispanics surpassed blacks as the largest minority group in the country, and the overall minority population swelled to nearly 30 percent of the total U.S. population. The gaming industry has long had a diverse work force, and this recent data confirms the need for our continued commitment to the promotion of diversity in hiring, purchasing and contracting.
Established in 2000, the American Gaming Association (AGA) Diversity Task Force is leading the way in making attention to diversity issues a business imperative throughout the industry. The task force is composed of human resources, purchasing and public relations executives from 14 companies and organizations, including almost every major casino operator in the country. Over the past three years, the task force has made significant progress toward its goal of creating inclusion in all business relationships and job categories within the industry.
In 2001, the task force’s human resources subcommittee worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to collect and aggregate EEO-1 employee data regarding race and gender in order to establish a diversity “baseline” for the gaming industry. According to the study, the 17 participating casinos employed an estimated 187,495 workers in 1999, and the percentage of minority groups employed by the gaming industry, both overall and within the “officials and managers” category, exceeded those employed by other sectors within the industry’s Standard Industrial Classification Code or the U.S. work force.
In 2002, the task force’s Purchasing and Contracting Subcommittee debuted Opportunity Expo, an event at G2E 2002 that brought together the industry’s top purchasing decision makers with disadvantaged and minority- and women-owned suppliers and vendors. Purchasing executives from leading gaming companies met one-on-one with representatives from more than 30 certified DBE, MBE and WBE businesses. A certification workshop was held for those businesses wishing to take part in Opportunity Expo but lacking DBE, MBE or WBE certification.
These initiatives represent the important first steps of our diversity program, setting the stage for the exciting next phase of our efforts. While the 2001 Gaming Industry Diversity Snapshot has served as a helpful baseline measurement, we have recognized that regular updates to the data are essential to track our progress and measure the effectiveness of industry hiring practices. We are currently in the process of updating our equal employment opportunity data. Collection of 2002 EEO-1 is already complete, including data from 138 individual casinos. This accounts for more than 255,000 casino employees nationwide, far more than participated in the initial baseline measurement study.
As a supplement to this data, the task force is collecting company EEO-1 job classifications by category in an effort to standardize classifications throughout the casino industry. In the past, job classifications differed from company to company, making data collection and comparisons difficult. In order to make the snapshot comparisons more meaningful, participating companies have agreed to standardize classifications.
In the areas of procurement and contracting, the task force will begin the process of establishing uniform standards that will enable our industry to track casino spending with disadvantaged and minority- and women-owned businesses. Today, there are as many systems in place in the casinos as there are casinos. This makes it impossible to collect, aggregate or analyze purchasing data in any meaningful way. However, by standardizing the various vendor categories as well as the classifications of the goods they sell, individual casinos across the country will be able to elect to incorporate consistent information into their purchasing systems that should then allow us to more accurately monitor our progress in these areas. The first step we are taking to move toward that goal is to convene a series of workshops where individuals experienced in promoting diversity in employment and procurement—casino industry representatives, purchasing and contracting consultants, and those from outside our industry—will share their best practices.
The Diversity Task Force also has plans to continue expansion of its national purchasing outreach programs, including Opportunity Expo at G2E 2003. In efforts to reach more of our targeted suppliers and vendors, we have informed even more key organizations about the event this year. This year’s co-sponsors include two returning sponsors, the Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, as well as the National Association of Women’s Business Owners-Southern Nevada, Nevada Minority Purchasing Council and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.
As a culmination of this year’s efforts, the task force plans to debut 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 guide will include an overview of our commitment to diversity issues, information on diversity initiatives and guidelines for best practices, as well as extensive vendor resource information on procurement opportunities.
Clearly, we have made significant progress in a very short period of time, but there is still much work to be done. One indicator that the industry is on the right track is the recent designation of MGM MIRAGE as one of “America’s 50 Best Companies for Minorities” by Fortune magazine. As we move forward with these exciting initiatives and develop new approaches to promote diversity, I have no doubt we will continue to advance our goals and serve as a bellwether for other industries to follow on this issue.