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Best of Frank Scoblete
I Am Worried16 April 2004
The other night I received a call from a young lady who wanted to ask me some questions about casino gambling for a survey a casino company was conducting. I asked her what company that was and she said she didn't really know since her employer was the survey company, not the casino company itself.
After a few general queries about what games I played, where I played, and what I thought about casino gaming in general, she asked a host of questions about Horseshoe in Tunica and comparisons between Horseshoe and Harrah's. These comparisons were obviously geared to finding out why Horseshoe's players--and I number myself among the legions of table-game players who just love playing at the "Shoe" in both Tunica and Indiana--really love the place.
But there was a glaring problem with the questions asked of me during the 20 minutes I spent responding to this young lady--there were only a handful of questions that dealt with the quality of games offered by the Horseshoe and how they treat average-to-expert players in their casinos. Most of the questions were about customer service, slot and players' club promotions, accommodations and the like. These things are important but nothing is as important as the quality of the games, the personnel who deal those games, and the ability of an entire casino operation NOT to sweat the money!
My guess is that the upper management of Harrah's was trying to discover through the survey just what it is about Horseshoe that makes it such a special place to those of us who gamble there.
And that's the problem with big corporations! Do you really need a survey to tell you why the Horseshoe is such a great place for serious gamblers? I don't think so. If I were the upper crust of Harrah's, I'd just take off my suit, establish a credit line at Horseshoe and spend a week or so playing the games and meeting the personnel at the casino. I'd ask for comps and see how I'm treated when the answer is yes and when the answer is no. I'd see how the pit personnel, the boxmen, the dealers reacted when a monster roll was happening; or when a savvy blackjack player went on a tear.
It doesn't take a survey to know when you are in a superior gambling establishment; you just have to open your eyes and look. The legions of players at the craps and blackjack tables at the "Shoe," even during weekdays, is testament to the fact that it is one heck of a place to gamble. While other competing casinos' tables are empty, the "Shoe" is packed.
And I wonder if Jack Binion, the brilliant owner of the "Shoes" in America, ever had to take a survey to discover what it is gamblers really want? Or did his years in the industry tell him in no uncertain terms, "This is what you must do to be the best!"
Now, I happen to love Harrah's in Las Vegas and I play craps there frequently. I also know that the customer service at Harrah's properties nationwide is outstanding. It's a friendly environment.
But the Harrah's "personal touch" is a "corporate touch" that relies on formulas for comping, ratings, and the like. There's no "human" behind the Harrah's mask, no Bill Harrah anymore, or Sam Harrah or Harry Harrah; it's just a company name, a brand. Horseshoe is Jack Binion, just as Mirage, Bellagio, Golden Nugget, and Treasure Island were Steve Wynn.
It is no accident that when Steve Wynn was running the Mirage properties, they had the best blackjack games in Vegas--and rarely sweated the action of even the biggest and most expert of players, and Mirage won a lot of money. Just as Horseshoe does!
Abraham Lincoln said that the greatest danger to America would be politicians who change successful institutions in order to make a name for themselves.
The person who runs the Horseshoe when Jack Binion is gone can't make a name for himself if he doesn't affect change. In the corporate world, change is meat, potatoes and promotions. These changes that I fear coming at the "Shoe" will not be made to hurt the property, no change is ever done to hurt the thing about to be hurt, they will be enacted to improve the "Shoe."
I would love for the Harrah's brain trust to say to the new property manager, "Don't you dare change a thing!" Preserve tradition. That won't happen. And here, by way of analogy, is why:
Both my sons went to a private, Catholic high school in New York. When you entered the school, there were photos and paintings on the walls dating back to the early 1900s of faculty, students, teams and academic awards. There was a sense of history in the building. The curriculum was old fashioned, English was Shakespeare, the Greeks, and the greats from past ages. Students took Latin. The teaching style was positively medieval--completely teacher centered.
The principal stood before the 9th grade parents on orientation night before the opening of school and said, "We know what works from generations of success and we intend to do what we know works. We have real standards and 25 percent of the young men you see in this audience will not make it to their senior year because they won't have what it takes!"
Now, my wife works in a public school. Change is king. Committees rule the day and every fade, foible and good intention created by educrats has been embraced, including the idea that no child is stupid, all children can succeed, and the teacher creates the discipline problems. You name the idiocy; my wife's school has implemented it: creative spelling (translation: no spelling is wrong); the writing process (translation: any slop will do); self-esteem (translation: no one should fail, it makes them feel bad about themselves), cooperative learning (translation: one stupid kid teaching another stupid kid); creative math (translation: no need to get a right answer), et al.
The administrators who effected all this change received promotions and moved on to other public schools ready to be ruined in the name of improvement. My sons' former school, unchanged, is one of the best in the country and has been for over 100 years. My wife's school, one of the 10 best public schools in New York State 30 years ago, has been improved into a disaster--70 percent of the kids can't read this article. But they sure feel good about themselves!
I am worried that the Horseshoe, once a private success, absorbed by a large corporate entity, will also be "improved." The road to Horseshoe's hell will undoubtedly be paved with good intentions.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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