A Failure of Regulation: Women’s Progress Stymied

A century after women won the right to vote in the U.S., the advancement of women in the gaming industry is still not where it should be according to gaming observer Richard Schuetz (l.). Why? He points the finger at regulators.

A Failure of Regulation: Women’s Progress Stymied

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men to do nothing.—Edmund Burke

Today, on August 18th, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, allowing women the right to vote. This event reminds us that the United States has had a longer history of not allowing women to vote than of allowing them to vote, clearly indicating this was a long slow process. So I thought I would talk about the blatant discrimination practiced against women in the gaming industry, and changing that too seems to be a long slow process. To give the reader a bit of a road map, I believe women’s progress is being drawn out longer than needed by an instance of regulatory failure.

One of the fascinating, and I find interesting, developments of recent times are all of the awards events being organized by the different entities in the gambling world. The industry and its representative groups even single out regulators for awards, and that is certainly curious. To the untrained eye, it looks like a rather strong effort at co-option. Anyway, it would seem in this world where everyone is applauding the work of the regulators and awards are being showered upon them, it is only fair for someone to suggest they may not be perfect. Call it a reversion to the old Fairness Doctrine.

Getting back to the discrimination against women thing, one only need look to the websites of the firms in the gaming space to see a preponderance of pictures that are male and pale, as the expression goes. Boards of directors and the executive teams have a huge bias toward men filling those positions. And apparently this is cool.

If one looks within the laws and regulations of the agencies that regulate gaming, there is a great deal of commonality. There is generally some statement that those folks who operate within the industry have to be of high character, honesty, and integrity; or some such similar language. There is also typically a provision suggesting the firm or individuals operating within the industry can be disciplined for an unsuitable means of operation.

Given this legal and regulatory basis, it is then clear the regulators have taken a position that having a statistical distribution of board members and executives that is heavily skewed toward males is a suitable means of operation. In another view, regulators appear to believe having an executive and board population that meets every statistical test of significant bias is a behavior consistent with the regulator’s understanding of integrity. That is certainly interesting.

Now there are those corporate shills and regulatory apologists who will suggest that this type of thing really does not fall withing the remit of the regulators. Nonsense.

The Las Vegas Strip did not allow black guests in the casinos located there in the early part of the 1960s. There were a few exceptions where black entertainers could ply their craft in the showrooms and lounges on the Strip, but they then had to be elsewhere at night. Because of this, Las Vegas was referred to as the Mississippi of the West. There were some people who were troubled with this reality and were working to change it, including people attached to and affiliated with the Civil Rights movement in Las Vegas. One of these people was the governor of the state, Grant Sawyer, and another was the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, Ed Olsen.

What Mr. Olsen did, with the knowledge of Governor Sawyer, was to deputize two black school teachers as agents of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and then send them into a few Strip casinos. When they were walked out by security, Mr. Olsen was more then happy to inform the licensee that they were in violation of their license by preventing gaming agents from having access to the gaming floor.

The point is, a regulator and a politician felt prohibiting black people from entering a casino was not consistent with character, honesty, and integrity; or a suitable means of operation. Fortunately, Ed Olsen and Grant Sawyer had the character, honesty, and integrity to do something about it.

What we find today is there are also a number of people who find that discriminating against women in filling executive and board positions is also inappropriate. I would certainly not hold my breath waiting for a modern regulatory board to do anything about it, however. This may set back their member’s political ambitions or their plan to sail through the revolving door, so better just do what the industry wants, even if it means abetting discrimination.

There is something that regulators could do about this type of discrimination, however, should they decide to act honorably. Make the operators and manufacturers in the jurisdiction file monthly reports on each job category, listing the number of women and men in each job listing and what the average remuneration is for each group. The operators will complain this is too difficult, but with modern HR systems this is an easy lift. They will also not want to do this, for this will be conclusive proof of the discrimination they have been harboring all of these years.

Also, if you are going to do this by gender, might was well do it along a number of other relevant groupings as well, for women are not the only group that this industry discriminates against. Oh, and make sure they are published on the regulator’s website each month. This is totally consistent with the notion of transparency, understanding that transparency is something that terrifies the gaming industry on this topic. They would rather stand up and pontificate about it with speeches and employee newsletters by talking about their great plans in this area rather than have to address the reality of published statistics.

If the agency can publish all of those gaming statistics each month, they can certainly do this, and one might argue the money that a human takes in is of equal importance to what a slot machine takes in. The point of this exercise was made by famous by Peter Drucker and that being: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” This is where we find out if the regulatory Boards and the politicians who write the gaming laws really care for such things. My guess is that many regulatory Board members will be afraid to do it, for they may soon need to collect contributions from the industry when they decide to run for office, need their next political appointment, or seek employment from the industry.

For you women in the industry who think this is a good idea and would like to see such a thing, print this article and send it to someone who will care in your legislature. Tell them the truth about your industry, that is discriminates against damn near everything that isn’t male and pale, and that you are continually fed a bunch of nonsense by the corporate mouthpieces who say what you see is not true, or tell you it is changing. You might even let them know that you are afraid to bring it up to the men for it may damage your career. In other words, start some good trouble.

Articles by Author: Richard Schuetz

Richard Schuetz started dealing blackjack for Bill Harrah 47 years ago, and has traveled the world as a casino executive, educator and regulator. He is sincerely appreciative of the help he received from his friends and colleagues throughout the gaming world in developing this article, understanding that any and all errors are his own.