Panel: Minorities Must Keep Fighting for Inclusion in Casino Industry

12 August 2001

by Kevin Ferguson

LAS VEGAS, Nevada –- Minority leaders urged their constituents Thursday to keep pushing for better jobs and better contracts with casino companies by, among other things, networking with those who have connections with top gaming officials.

Some ways of doing that include working with contractors and vendors that already serve the casino industry as well as encouraging politicians to push equal opportunity agendas, a panel of minority leaders said.

They spoke at a Las Vegas conference called Gaming Venues II, A Report on Inclusion & Growth. It continues today.

Panelist Regis Groff, past-president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, said persistence is important in dealing with politicians.

"When you start talking about diversity and equal opportunity, politicians get nervous. Even black politicians get jumpy," said the former Colorado state senator.

Raising these issues are important, he said, because "there's still a problem for African-Americans in finding jobs, getting jobs and moving ahead in jobs."

Clark County Commission Chairman Dario Herrera said it's important that the gaming industry works to balance its workforce with racial demographics because countries throughout the world try to mirror the way Las Vegas regulates and operates its gaming industry.

"It's important that our casino industry better reflects our demographics, not just those who serve food or make the beds, but those who make decisions," Herrera said.

About 72 percent of Clark County residents are white, 14 percent are Hispanic, 9 percent are black, 4 percent are Asian and about 1 percent are Indian, said a demographics report on the Clark County government website.

Statistics on minorities in casino executive positions on an industry-basis are tough to gather, said Otto Merida, president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce.

But it's common knowledge that minorities and women are under-represented in the ranks of casino executives.

MGM MIRAGE Chairman and Chief Executive Terrance Lanni last summer vowed to increase contracts with minority-owned businesses after being pressured by the NAACP.

In a letter to the Gaming Commission, Lanni said the MGM Grand had spent more than $38 million with minority and women-owned businesses between 1997 and the summer 2000, including $1.64 million with black-owned companies.

The NAACP and other minority groups have said that's not enough.

None of the panelists Thursday evening suggested casinos should hire minorities based on quotas for its staff or outside contractors. Instead, they pushed for more opportunities for minorities to be better trained in higher level positions in the industry.

"In order for things to change, there has to be some sort of mechanism for change," said Frank Hawkins, a former city councilman and executive director for Community Development Programs of Nevada.

"There has to be some kind of incentives for those who establish the goals and those who monitor the goals," said Hawkins.

He said MGM MIRAGE and Station Casinos Inc. are two casino operators that he is aware of that have established programs to reach out to minority groups for hiring.

MGM MIRAGE's casino in Michigan, MGM Detroit, has a 10-member managing partner group that assists in economic development and minority hiring.

"We have a provision in our operating agreement that says 30 percent of our contractors and vendors are Detroit-based businesses owned by women or minorities," said Joe Davis, a managing partner of MGM Detroit.

Davis said the provision also requires at least half of the casino staff to be a mix of minorities and Detroit residents.

"Detroit is a little different from most gaming communities. It's about 75 percent African-American and almost 100 percent unionized," Davis said.

Related Links
Nevada Online Gambling
Gaming Venues II, A Report on Inclusion and Growth