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Canadian Gaming Summit Speech
by Phil Satre

Phil Satre Canadian Gaming Summit Speech – April 10, 2002

Thank you very much, It’s a pleasure to be here today.
I did some research prior to coming here and discovered that Regina is similar to Las Vegas – where our headquarters are located – in several ways.
Regina is the sunniest capital city in Canada, while Las Vegas has fewer than 30 days with precipitation each year.
Regina is known – at least in the summers – for its warm, dry climate, as is LasVegas. Housing is more affordable in both cities than in similarly sized metropolitan areas. And there is a rich mix of people who’ve moved to both cities from other parts of the world, attract by the opportunities each city provides.
Of course, there are some differences, too. The winters are a bit harsher here than in Las Vegas. That became very evident yesterday. When I left Las Vegas, at about 3:00 in the afternoon yesterday, the temperature was a balmy 92 degrees Fahrenheit. And when I got off the plane here, someone spotted my name after hearing me talking and asked, “Are you French-Canadian?” And I replied, “No, I’m just freakin’ freezin’.”
Just as there are similarities and differences between our two cities, there are similarities and differences between gaming behavior and attitudes in the United States and Canada.
I’d like to outline some of them, and tell you what I think they mean to the future of our industry.

Let’s consider public attitudes toward gaming. Two out of three Canadians believe gambling is an acceptable activity in their province. In the U.S., about three out of four adults believe gambling is acceptable for themselves or others.
Two out of three Canadians agree it is their right to gamble, regardless of the consequences. About eight out of 10 U.S. adults say gambling is a matter of personal freedom, and that the government shouldn’t tell people what they can or can’t do with their money.
It seems to me, then, that public support for legalized gaming is quite broad. That’s a sea change in sentiment from attitudes of 20 or more years ago. And that change has been brought about primarily by two factors:
• The desire for new jurisdictions to reap tax revenues from gaming, and
• The resultant increase in exposure to a new form entertainment that gave millions of people an opportunity to experience casino play first-hand. And they found out it wasn’t what gaming’s critics contended.
But I’m not certain that gaming’s acceptance is as deep in both countries as it is broad. Two-thirds of Canadians, for example, believe gambling has not improved the quality of life in their communities. As I listened to Ed Bellegarde last night, I know the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority knows it has improved quality of life in their communities. On the other hand, a plurality of U.S. citizens say the benefits from increased tax revenues and job creation more than offset any negative influences of casino gambling.
Clearly, there’s a bigger controversy about the impact of gambling in Canada than in the U.S. There are probably several reasons why. But I think one reason might well be the wide proliferation of VLTs outside of casinos and racetracks in Canada.
I believe there is a time and a place for everything. But the time and place for slot machines and VLTs is not all the time, everywhere.
Now, my company has always maintained that each community or province or state should have the right to determine for itself the kinds and amounts of gambling that will be made available to its citizens. But I think the proliferation of gaming devices in non-casino locations raises serious concerns.
This phenomenon has efficiently transferred money from the pockets of citizens to government coffers. But it has done so at a cost to the public’s confidence in the ability of gambling to be an engine of economic growth and an amenity of which communities can be proud.
In addition, the “in-your-face” nature of widely dispersed gaming machines serves as a lightning rod for public criticism of government gambling policy that can adversely affect all forms of gambling.
I’ve seen this dynamic in Australia where I sit on the Board of an Australian Gaming Company, TABCORP. Gaming machines in hotels and bars have led to various “harm-minimization” proposals that detract from the entertainment enjoyed in casinos by recreational gamblers.
I’ve seen this dynamic in the worldwide debate over Internet gambling. Well-publicized failures of cyberspace casino operators, the refusal of credit-card companies to let holders participate in Internet wagering and concerns over underage and problem gambling hold the potential to create a very real, widespread backlash against all forms of gaming.
I’ve seen this dynamic in Canada. Nova Scotia, for example, is exploring so-called “socially responsible” VLTs, implying that every other VLT in the nation is somehow “socially irresponsible.”
If a government has made the choice, as it has here, in Australia, and in some states in the U. S., to have gaming devices in a variety of public places, then it should be prepared for a higher probability of backlash from gaming opponents.
In part, that’s because 15 slot machines in a neighborhood bar don’t offer the same social and economic benefits as a large casino.
So if government does decide to offer widely disseminated VLTs, it needs to be more proactive in promoting the benefits realized from the tax revenues generated by such devices.
But, every facet of gaming must do this:
• Private Casinos
• First Nation Casinos
• Government Owned Casinos
• Lotteries
We can’t keep our light under a bushel, we must tell our story.
I recognize Internet, slot and VLT operators, which in Canada are often government entities, might argue that my remarks stem from a desire to eliminate competition for traditional bricks-and-mortar casinos.

But those games don’t really constitute competition for casinos. That’s because traditional casinos cater to different customers from the type you find playing slots in a neighborhood bar, or the lottery at the convenience store.
My company has gathered data on the playing habits of more than 25 million casino customers. We have exhaustively mined that data for clues about what makes them tick.
We’ve also conducted surveys and focus groups that give us a great deal of insight into the motivations of casino players. I think we understand the U.S. casino customer better than anyone in that country.
Our latest survey, conducted by Roper Starch, will be published next month. But I’m going to give you an exclusive preview of what it shows – that casino players differ from non-casino players in a number of ways.
First, casino players are more enthusiastic, more avid and more active participants in life. They are significantly more likely than non-players to participate in leisure activities such as traveling, dining out, going to movies and cultural events. That is a good thing.
Casino players enjoy all forms of music more than non-players. (The lone exception is gospel music; I’ll leave it to others to interpret what that means.) And casino players are more likely to participate in hobbies such as fishing, golf, exercise and travel than non-players. Again, that is a good thing.
Second, casino players tend to be more financially secure and savvy than non-casino players. They are much more likely to hold various investments, far more likely to believe they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement and more likely to pay the entire balance on their credit cards each month. On the other hand, non-players are significantly more likely to have “major concerns” about paying credit cards, medical bills and rent or mortgage payments.
Third, casino players differ from non-players on core values, beliefs and aspirations. For example:
• More gamblers than non-gamblers say good manners, a sense of responsibility and respect for others are the most important qua

Date Posted: 05-May-2002



 
 
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