Foxwoods Formula for Success
by Steve Karoul

Foxwoods Formula for Success
By Steve Karoul

I know that many of you have followed my ongoing series of articles about how to make money in the casino business today. I keep repeating one of my friends favorite sayings that being successful in the casino business today is not about making money but rather it is about creating value. And as always, many of you keep challenging me for more detail and more in depth information. Therefore, since I am employed by Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, it makes sense for me to use Foxwoods as the sample. Foxwoods is the largest casino in the world today. Foxwoods has over 380 Table Games, 7,400 Slot Machines, 1,500 Hotel Rooms and approximately 12,000 employees plus a wide variety or restaurants, salon, spa, show room and two Rees Jones designed golf courses. Foxwoods is located in the middle of 2,500 acres of pristine virgin forest half way between New York City and Boston. Therefore, besides location, location and location, Foxwoods aggressively markets to every single segment of its different gaming markets ranging from Bingo, Poker, and Slots to Table Games. We also focus a great deal of attention and marketing on our non-gaming revenue producing areas such as salon, spa, entertainment and retail to help support our overall marketing efforts.

In addition to all of this, many people think that there still must be a secret formula for success. This made me reflect for a moment to try to think about exactly what are the critical elements that would make up some magical formula for Foxwoods phenomenal success that could be replicated by other casinos around the world. In retrospect, I did come up with my own interpretation of that secret success formula:

Foxwoods Formula for Success =

The 3 Ps (People, Product & Profit) X Marketing / Financial Analysis, Training, Motivation, & Fear

Our CEO, Bill Sherlock, is the Master of All and understands all. He implemented a company wide training program focusing every one of our 12,000 employees as well as new hires on the benefits of understanding the 3 Ps and how they impact both Foxwoods and themselves personally through our various employee rewards and recognition programs. The first P stands for People which represent both our customers and our employees who provide service and create value for our customers. The second P stands for Product which represents a wide array of different products and services offered by Foxwoods. And the third P stands for Profit which represents one of our primary goals at Foxwoods. All employees must understand that we are in business to make a profit for our owners. Their individual actions affect our overall ability to remain profitable as well as their own well being for both the present and for the future.

The second part of the Success Formula is marketing. Bob DeSalvio, Executive Vice President of Marketing is the Magician. He magically creates events, fantasies, illusions and other offerings to constantly create value that brings customers to our casino on an ongoing basis maximizing every square inch of space at our property. His marketing team is the best and consists of representatives from Entertainment, Promotions, Sales, Brand Marketing, Advertising, Casino Marketing, Player Development, Casino Hosts, Financial Analysis, Junkets, Direct Marketing, Special Events, Public Relations, Creative Arts, MIS, Retail, Table Games and Slots. The Foxwoods Marketing Team meets every week at a regularly scheduled time to review, plan and critique. This close interaction and communication among the various team members is paramount for success.

Financial Analysis is another vital and critical element in the Foxwoods Formula for Success. Our Financial Analysis is broken down into two distinctively different areas. Michael Rodriguez and his team focus their efforts on financial results and performance results of the various operating departments throughout the property as well as monitoring financial results of all direct competitors. Roger Allen and his staff are more focused upon marketing analysis. They evaluate all marketing programs at Foxwoods analyzing all expenses versus return on investment. This enables us to react quickly to any marketing programs, entertainment or special events that may be under-performing. Quick reaction allows us to modify or cancel a program quickly to help maximize our profit goals. Greg Dean is from our MIS Department which actively supports our Marketing Analysis as well and is especially helpful with our Comp Review Committee which carefully monitors individual player profitability. Financial analysis and Marketing Analysis are two absolutely critical functions for any modern casino. If you dont have reliable current financial analysis, get some quickly. It is one investment that will pay for itself many times over.

Training is another critical area. I like to tell people that one can never over communicate in the casino business. I believe the same is true about training. Creating value for your customers materializes in many different ways in a casino. However, your employees are the ones who create that value along with friendly, excellent customer service. If you think this happens on its own then you are wrong and heading down a path of self destruction. You can never over train. However, you need to determine the proper balance between training costs, service expectations and real service rendered. It is oftentimes difficult to objectively analyze this internally. Therefore, Foxwoods employs outside independent consulting companies to both shop our property and also interview our customers to determine their level of satisfaction with what they actually experience at Foxwoods. This area has become one of our employee goals and plays an important part in their annual performance reviews and annual bonus. Depending upon the size of your Personnel Department you can either do this internally or you can out source this training to someone like Martin Baird from Robinson and Associates which is a professional customer service consulting firm that specializes in this area and works with casinos around the world.

Motivation is always high on my list as well. The casino business is a high pressure industry where our employees are constantly subjected to numerous pressures and stress in dealing with the general public and especially with casino players. Therefore, motivation is a big factor in relieving much of this stress and will also dramatically help everything from customer service to the overall cleanliness of the property. Motivation, recognition and rewards should play an important role in any casino today.

Fear is another hidden factor that many people dont like to discuss. However, I personally think that it is also an important factor that should be recognized. Motivation is extremely important and every psychologist will always tell you it is a key success factor. I agree but from my own experience I have found that it is also always best to have a small element of fear implanted into the operation as well. Fear prevents complacency. Educators will argue that it is a negative motivator but others will also stress that it does work. You will have to decide what is best for your own operation.

And finally I want to mention one additional important factor in the Foxwoods Success Formula. That factor is our Tribal Council. Most public corporations are governed by a Board of Directors. Foxwoods is a Native American owned casino and therefore we are governed by our Tribal Council. I think it is important to commend them as well. They are a group of hard working dedicated individuals who have been able to recognize and understand the difference between setting policy and micro-managing operations. Our Tribal Council has gone out of their way to hire the best possible man

Date Posted: 29-Aug-2005

Steve Karoul is Vice President of Casino Marketing for Foxwoods Resort Casino owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe located in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Foxwoods is the largest casino in the world today. Steve has over 25 years of experience with top casinos both domestically and internationally. He is a contributing writer to several different major casino publications often injecting his own experiences. Steve can be reached at Tel. (1-860) 312-5070 or by E-mail: skaroul@mptn-nsn.gov

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