Few gaming firms disclose figures on minority hiring - Saturday 12th of March 2005

While MGM Mirage isn't the only company to make public its track record on minority hiring and purchasing, most other gaming companies either choose to keep such information private or say they haven't made a decision on whether to release it.

Competitors also say they are forging ahead with diversity programs of their own that are in some ways similar to what MGM Mirage offers.

A hallmark of MGM Mirage's four-year-old corporate diversity campaign, the statistics have been applauded by many community groups yet have also made the company vulnerable to attack by those who say the numbers fall short.

After compiling information for the past few years since the resort's opening, Venetian owner Las Vegas Sands Corp. began publishing figures on minority representation last year.

Publishing the data was a decision made independent of MGM Mirage and "without political pressure," said Andy Abboud, vice president of government relations and community development at the Venetian.

The data has put the company on the hot seat but is the only way the company can be "honest and straightforward" with the community about its commitment to diversity, Abboud said.

"As a whole we are doing well but we can do better," Abboud said. "If you're going to be proactive, the first logical question is, 'How are you doing?' " According to figures published last year, about 55 percent of Venetian employees were minorities while about 34 percent of managers and above were minorities. While the percentage of managers is in line with the general population, the percentage of overall employees who are minorities is greater than the percentage of Clark County residents who are minorities, the company said.

Of managers, 7 percent were black, 17 percent were Hispanic and 11 percent were Asian. The Venetian also breaks down minority data further by title, including hourly and salaried workers, supervisors, managers, directors and vice president and above.

While minorities made up about 61 percent of hourly workers, minorities made up only 37 percent of salaried workers, for example.

Last year about 6 percent of the Venetian's $49.2 million in purchasing was made with minority-owned, women-owned or disadvantaged businesses.

Other major Las Vegas gaming companies including Station Casinos Inc., Boyd Gaming Corp., Harrah's Entertainment Inc. and Caesars Entertainment Inc. don't publish diversity statistics.

Boyd and Station said their companies haven't determined whether to release diversity data. Officials with Harrah's, which is buying Caesars Entertainment in a still-pending $9.4 billion deal, couldn't be reached on the subject of statistics. Wynn Resorts officials could not be reached for comment.

"That hasn't been something that's been asked," Boyd Gaming spokesman Rob Stillwell said of releasing data. Over the course of the past year the company has focused efforts on building minority contacts in purchasing, construction and employee recruiting, he said.

Dean Ishman, president of the Las Vegas branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said his group will continue to push companies to publish such information.

"It would certainly hold their feet to the fire and make them more accountable," Ishman said. "They should be accountable to people in the community to make jobs available (to minorities) -- and not just low-level jobs."

Without statistics "it's hard to tell" minority representation at a company and anecdotal evidence is difficult to obtain, he said.

Under pressure from the NAACP, Station Casinos in 2001 released employment data that showed a general workforce that mirrored the population but top officials who were all white. Executives said at the time that it was a reflection of a family-owned company that has become one of the state's biggest employers.

Station Casinos spokeswoman Lesley Pittman said the company is promoting diversity through its recruiting and training efforts but hasn't talked more recently about releasing company data. Pittman, who co-chairs a diversity task force at the American Gaming Association, said the company is involved in compiling industry-wide diversity information to help companies create a benchmark for improvement.

American Gaming Association Executive Director Judy Patterson said the trade group released its most recent diversity statistics in 2003 and will likely update it.

The group's diversity task force, created in 2000 and made up of most of the major casino operators, has been working to create industry-wide data on minority purchasing. The first step -- creating a list of products and services casinos contract for -- took about a year, Patterson said.

Casino giants say they are expanding existing diversity efforts or creating new programs.

A few months from closing its expected acquisition of Caesars Entertainment, Harrah's is working on a companywide diversity effort that will be announced in the coming months.

"This is absolutely a priority issue for our company" and a "primary objective" for Chief Executive Gary Loveman this year, Harrah's spokesman David Strow said.

"We want to implement a very broad and very inclusive diversity culture," Strow said. "We want to be the type of leader in diversity that we have been in responsible gaming. It takes time to develop a comprehensive plan."

That plan, in the works before the Caesars acquisition was announced, has been delayed somewhat by the deal.

Harrah's expects to incorporate the best of what Caesars has accomplished on the diversity front, Strow said.

"Caesars is making great strides as far as diversity is concerned," he said. "We don't want to lose the momentum that they have on this topic."

Last year Harrah's created an advisory committee to help craft the diversity program. Members of the paid committee include San Antonio Mayor Edward Garza and Mickey Ibarra, a Washington D.C.-based consultant and former Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Clinton Administration.

Last year, Boyd Gaming created a tracking system for minority vendors and in 2003 launched a diversity committee made up of various departments. The company also has an outreach program with schools, government agencies and community groups and offers applications and orientations for native Spanish-speakers.

The company's diversity program hasn't been formalized until recent years though it has been committed to diversity "since the very beginning," Stillwell said.

Company founder Sam Boyd was one of the first casino operators to employ female dealers and has always "rated on performance without regard to race, creed or sex," he said.

Station Casinos, meanwhile, holds regular vendor workshops in conjunction with advocacy groups so that minorities can learn how to apply for contracts. The company also awards a scholarship to a local high school student who has promoted community diversity and also offers diversity training for employees.

Ishman said he is heartened by increased minority representation at MGM Mirage in particular but said there's "much room for improvement" across the industry.

"The numbers are increasing and that's a good thing," he said. "We just need that to trickle down" to the competition.

Other news from around the same time

Investor eyes 2b jackpot in casino VIP room offer - Saturday 12th of March 2005

Private investor from the mainland is planning to sell shares in eight VIP rooms in Macau's Galaxy C....


Florida Slots And The Ultimate Shell Game - Saturday 12th of March 2005

"You don't always get what you want." The Rolling Stone's mega hit from oh so long ago seems to hold....


Australia's Ainsworth Calls Off Merger With Russia's Unicum - Saturday 12th of March 2005

Poker machine maker Ainsworth Game Technology Ltd (ASX:AGI) today called off its proposed merger wit....


17,000 jobs riding on Gambling Bill' - Saturday 12th of March 2005

The British economy would lose at least ??2bn of business and as many as 17,000 jobs if the Gambling....


Silverstar wins casino licence battle - Saturday 12th of March 2005

THE Supreme Court of Appeals yesterday ordered the Gauteng Gambling Board to issue a casino licence ....


Offshore Casino Buys Right to Advertise on Valenzuela's Clothing - Saturday 12th of March 2005

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who offered advertising on his jockey pants legs and his collar for sale ....


British firms size up Macau jackpot - Saturday 12th of March 2005

BALFOUR Beatty's ??175m contract to build a Las Vegas-style hotel in China's hottest gaming enclave ....


Malta based gaming company launches online casino - Saturday 12th of March 2005

Malta based gaming company Vegas Interactive and the leading live online gaming software company, CW....


Billion to be spent for Macau gambling - Saturday 12th of March 2005

Gambling moguls such as Australia's Kerry Packer and the Las Vegas' Steve Wynn are betting on Macau ....


Casino Companies Aim for Pennsylvania License - Saturday 12th of March 2005

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Casino mogul Steve Wynn will unveil his $2.7 billion....