How to manage this outside resource to your benefit
Have you ever tried to complete a really difficult puzzle? One that has an area that does not really have a picture, and it’s just a big section of the same color? Sometimes, operating a casino may have the same feel. There may be an area or two that you know is an important part of the puzzle, but you just can’t get all the pieces to fit exactly like they are supposed to, because that area of the puzzle just isn’t very clear to you. When completing an actual puzzle, sometimes it helps to bring in another set of eyes to focus just on that section. In a casino operation, this may mean bringing in consultant help … individuals who are skilled in a specific area to help you complete your metaphorical puzzle in the most efficient way possible. This is not an uncommon practice in the industry.
As important as it is to complete the operational puzzle, here are four things to consider when evaluating potential consultation help:
1. Notify the regulatory entity
For Tribal casinos, the Tribal Gaming Regulatory Authority is considered the primary regulator of the casino operation. Using the puzzle example, the TGRA is looking at the whole picture and making sure that the puzzle does not have pieces that don’t belong, that there are no missing pieces, and that there are not pieces in one section that clearly do not belong. When a consulting agreement is in place, someone new will be working on the puzzle. Notifying the TGRA keeps everyone on the same page and allows effective regulation to occur. The TGRA can ensure the assets of the Tribe and the integrity of the gaming continue to be protected while the operation gets those pieces of the puzzle put together efficiently. There is probably already a process established for this. Know this process and communicate it to the consultant! It will make life easier for everyone.
2. Define the role of the consultant(s)
This is beneficial for both the consultant and the operation. Consulting groups cannot – and should not – manage any part of the casino. There are regulations specifically prohibiting this and several examples where regulatory entities have made notice of it, even when it was only the appearance of management. The casino’s management team should welcome this definition. They don’t want consultants doing their job for them! Outlining the role early in the relationship will give the consultant clear boundaries for their part of the puzzle, avoiding them potentially messing up parts that are already put together. Consultants will also embrace the defined role, as it should define the scope of their project and add clarity to the operation’s expectations.
3. Perform a cost-benefit analysis
To be fair, a costbenefit analysis can mean a plethora of things. For some, this means hours of crunching numbers, manipulating data, and analyzing countless variables. Typically, those in-depth analyses yield great results that shouldn’t be taken for granted. However, it may not be necessary. Almost any decision maker can do a costbenefit analysis. Sure, there will be some assumptions made and the science might not be exact, but it’s likely that no one knows your operation better than you do. Even if it is a simple pros and cons list, take the time to think about what you’re investing in and what you expect the results to be. If you expect your consultant to help you increase revenue by 10%, know what that dollar amount looks like. Compare that to what you’re paying the consultant. If you’re paying more than what you’re getting back, you may need to reconsider. Again, it doesn’t have to be complicated. You know what the puzzle should look like; make sure that the consultant knows your vision before you get started.
4. Create a policy
These are painful words for some folks. Sometimes it feels like we just write policies to say that we have one. And sometimes that may be true. But a good policy that is implemented and maintained adds internal control. Frankly, that is never a bad thing. When you document how you are going to allow people to help you with your puzzle, this process gets much simpler. Start with the three items mentioned above, then build on them. Utilize forms and templates to standardize the process. Try creating the policy when you are NOT considering consultation help. This will keep you from being jaded.
You can find a consultant for just about anything in the gaming industry. This is actually a good thing. As you work to put your puzzle together, you always have resources should things start to become difficult. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, you can be almost certain that it will. When the time comes, be ready! Consultants want to help you, but at the end of the day, it is still your puzzle.