Schuetz: Operators’ Snub Of Massachusetts Commission Shows A Total Lack Of Respect

Richard Schuetz

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aretha frankin singing

All I’m askin’ is for a little respect.

— Aretha Franklin

Let me tell you the way it was, kids. 

When I was a casino executive on the Las Vegas Strip, every now and then, I would get a call from an agent of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. He would want to have coffee or lunch, and it would be at the Peppermill on the Strip. It meant that we would be meeting that day, and I canceled whatever I had planned.

I went alone, for that was the unspoken rule, and when I arrived, there would always be two agents already there. Without fail, it had to do with an issue. The lead of the tandem would explain the issue, and the other person was just there to listen. About 90% of the time, the issue was resolved at the meeting. About 7% of the time, I would tell the agent I would get back to them within 24 hours, for I needed to talk to one of our lawyers, the company president or chairperson, or some such thing. 

Every now and then, we would disagree, and I would explain my position. We would finish the coffee or lunch, shake hands, and go our own ways. Either I would hear nothing more about the issue, or it would be elevated to a formal complaint.

The one common element in all of this was that it was done with a high level of respect.

What it’s supposed to look like

When I became a member of the California Gambling Control Commission, I made several trips to Nevada with other members of the California Commission to watch a Nevada Gaming Control Board meeting with Mark Lipparelli and later A.G. Burnett as chair. I wanted my fellow California commissioners to see the incredibly respectful way that the Nevada meetings were held. There were certainly disagreements and contentious moments, but they were held with a high level of respect.

I was proud to be a part of all of that, and I considered it an incredibly important part of the industry.

The point is that I grew up for 40-plus years in an industry with a culture of exhibiting the utmost respect for regulators, and importantly, they generally deserved it. It was the way it was done.

That explains the absolute shock I experienced while I watched Tuesday’s Massachusetts Gaming Commission roundtable discussion on sports wagering operator wager limitations. The meeting started with the notification that the ten operators who had committed to being there had decided not to come. Apparently, these ten had not let Bally’s into the tent yet, so some poor soul from that firm did show up and was really unprepared for the reality of the meeting.

‘The ultimate statement of arrogance and ignorance’

Two characteristics that I find very unpleasant when combined are arrogance and ignorance, and the way that the ten firms stiffed the MGC was the absolute ultimate statement of arrogance and ignorance. This could only have taken place in an environment where industry leadership egos were running wild and unchecked. More importantly, it was terribly disrespectful to the chairman and the commissioners in Massachusetts. Terribly disrespectful.

It had to embarrass them, and they had done nothing to deserve that. It also wasted their time.

One of the funnier episodes in the post-PASPA period has been how the group of rocket scientist betting operators handled California. They burned cash by the bushel basket there to get 17% of the vote. They apparently thought it was important for them to light hundreds of millions of dollars on fire to demonstrate that they did not have a hint. Their arrogance and ignorance were on full display in California for all to see, and more importantly, so was their total disrespect for the tribes.

Well, you can lead a horse to water, and here we are again, with the operators being ignorant, arrogant, and disrespectful.

Massachusetts, you need new rules. You took a friendly approach, and you got burned by it. I believe that it is now time to tell the industry what you need. Tell the operators the statistics you need them to provide so you can understand and appreciate the situation with limiting. Give them a deadline to get these statistics to you. And make sure they are audited by someone who is prepared for such an assignment.

You have tried nice, and that didn’t work, and if they fool you twice … well, then you are the problem.

The reality is that you have a job to do, you are on the right path, and you are being played. 

It is time to take charge.

Richard Schuetz entered the gaming industry working nights as a blackjack and dice dealer while attending college and has since served in many capacities within the industry, including operations, finance, and marketing. He has held senior executive positions up to and including CEO in jurisdictions across the United States, including the gaming markets of Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Reno/Tahoe, Laughlin, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Louisiana. In addition, he has consulted and taught around the globe and served as a member of the California Gambling Control Commission and Executive Director of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission. He also publishes extensively on gaming, gaming regulation, diversity, and gaming history.