TRIBAL GAMING – THE LAST 15 YEARS

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Thank you G&L for 15 years of insight, industry perspective, visually stunning editions, collaboration of an industry and most of all… for your friendship! You guys are simply the best. As I begin my contribution to what I know is going to be such an amazing magazine issue you are putting together, I am already looking forward to reading what everyone else has written or contributed and, of course, seeing the 15-year photo montage of the amazing people in this industry. I’ve loved being a part of your crazy ride and can’t wait to see what the next 15 bring!

I feel compelled to write about something that captures the last 15 years … somehow. To somehow make sense of all the growth and amazing things that have happened in technology and impacted Native American gaming since 2001. And somehow highlight all the companies and iconic and influential people in tribal gaming that have pushed the boundaries and paved the path to greatness for this industry. But realistically it would be impossible to do in just few pages! And the funny thing about tribal gaming is that it’s always a challenge to “report” on. It’s so diverse and difficult to generalize trends based on a set of stats. People ask me all the time where they can get “stats” similar to what they may be able to get in other industries. And it’s not that there isn’t information and research out there, but there is not one magical source to point people toward, to gain the knowledge and insight that comes from working within it. And from the outside in … there’s a learning curve.

Those of you who are already in tribal gaming may not realize it, but I talk with companies and individuals all the time that are eager for the knowledge of “how things work” in tribal gaming. So, in the interest of appealing to anyone reading this – no matter how many years inside or on the sidelines of the tribal gaming/hospitality industry – I won’t spit out facts and stats. I think there’s more meaning to what the last 15 years has meant to us all. And, although I find it impossible to make mention of EVERY single person, business and successful happening that has brought the tribal gaming industry to where it is in G&L’s 15th anniversary, I can say with all certainty that there are people reading this issue today who ARE those icons and influential people. I can confidently write that many of you don’t need a recap of the highlights of what has happened over the last 15 years in tribal gaming because you’ve been a part of it.

As we think about the explosion of business and consumer technology, think about what tribal casinos and guests are able to do now vs. what they were doing in 2001, even what they could do in 2006 or even 2011. And as we think about the people in this industry, some who have come and gone, who do we make mention of? Who do we leave out? In my personal effort to be a better me in 2016, I feel obligated to turn this trip down memory lane back on someone else. Someone who, with our busy day-to-day lives many of us forget to think about … ourselves.

In the midst of all this influential change and innovation, through peaks and valleys of the economy, through policy and regulation changes … what do you remember about yourself over the last 15 years? Is it a big upgrade you did on your property management system? Is it moving a previous manual process to an automated system? Is it what the server room looked like when it was you and two other people on your IT team when your casino was a tent, bingo hall or gas station? Or maybe you remember who was sitting in the board room when you had to present a topic to your tribal council that was confusing or cutting edge technology back then.

Just think for one minute that in 2001 one of the hot topics on TribalNet’s conference agenda was on Automating Time and Attendance Processes, which by the way, was delivered by Kronos who is still a major partner for many tribal casinos! In 2002, we covered a topic called; Creating an Effective Tribal Website. Just think of that. Your casino without a website!

Jump ahead five years later to 2007, where we are covering topics like: Is IP Telephony Right for You? and Prime Your Casino for Server-Based Gaming. Is it those pieces that stick out in your mind and what you remember? Maybe.

But, if I said to most of you reading this, “In less than a minute name five meaningful things that have impacted you over the last 15 years …GO,” you would instead be more likely to have one answer, or maybe even several, that are directly related to what your emotions are powered on today and what drives you to be a better you.

Maybe you got married, or your first child was born. Maybe you had grandkids or your kids all went off to college or the military. Maybe an important person, elder or mentor became a part of your life, or maybe you unfortunately lost one. What’s first on our minds are the big moments in life that touch our hearts. Good or bad it’s the core of who we are.

So let’s do an exercise and test your memory. Try and remember a personal mark of time as well as a professional accomplishment or success through a few of these points in Indian Gaming …

In 2001, there were fewer than 200 tribes with gaming across the U.S. (compared to the nearly 250 now), did your casino even exist 15 years ago? What was your job title and role? What did your computer look like? Did you own a mobile device? And, what moments of your life can you remember when you were 15 years younger than today? Take a moment for self-reflection.

Jump ahead to 2004 when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed new gaming compacts presenting exclusive gaming rights to five California tribes and raised the 2,000 slot machine cap per tribe. A big year in the history of California gaming, the state with the most gaming tribes in the U.S. If you were in tribal gaming then, what were some of your team’s biggest projects that year? What did the casino floor look like? Personally what items had you checked off your bucket list that year?

Flash forward five years to 2009 – the entire global economy receded. The Indian Gaming Industry collectively showed a decrease for the first time in at least 10 years of gross gaming revenues, $26.5 billion down from $26.7 in FY 2008. What do you remember about your personal loss or gain that year? How did the state of the economy impact the decisions you made that year both personally and professionally?

Think ahead another five years to 2014. Tribal government gaming in Oklahoma employed more than 23,000 people – ranked the 19th largest employer in the state, equating to 1 in every 55 jobs. How many people was your casino employing? How many mouths was the success of your department feeding? And what do you remember that motivated you to go to work every day?

So why does all this matter? Why is taking the time for self-reflection and self-awareness in your overflowing to-do list today important in business? Other than nostalgic feelings, what does thinking about these top ‘personal’ moments do for us? Does it impact the boss, co-worker or mentor you are today? Absolutely. Does it impact the decisions you make in your career either overall or daily? It should.

It doesn’t matter what your age is, consider what in your journey you can reflect on to make you a better version of yourself tomorrow and, more importantly, pass that on. Allow it to give you compassion. Embrace how it promotes understanding and fuels trusting relationships and partnerships in business. And ultimately leverage it to make you a better leader. Invest in the ‘people’ part of your people because somewhere along the way … someone invested in you.

Shannon Bouschor has been with TribalNet since 2004 and is the current Executive Director. She is responsible for the direction and overall execution of TribalNet’s services including their; membership, conference, symposium, magazine and other divisions. Bouschor is the coordinator for TribalNet’s boards and committees and is responsible for the collaboration with strategic industry partners. She has been a contributing writer periodically for TribalNet’s media partner G&L over the last ten years. TribalNet is an industry resource for technology minded professionals at tribal organizations and enterprises along with the vendors providing products and solutions to this market. She welcomes the opportunity to make a connection with you via LinkedIn or email at: shannonb@tribalnetonline.com.

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