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SPIRITUALITY IN GAMING? YOU BET!
by Sudhir Kale

SPIRITUALITY IN GAMING? YOU BET!

Sudhir H. Kale
GamePlan Consultants Pty. Ltd.

The very title of this piece will undoubtedly have many readers utterly flabbergasted. Most casino staff regards their work life as anything but spiritual. I am reminded of the one singular piece of advice Jesus Christ reportedly gave to merchants: to abandon their work and to follow Him. I wonder what He would have said to casino executives if casinos were around during His time!

Not to worry. This article is not some preachy little piece that exhorts those in the gaming industry to abandon their trade and save the soul in the process. Rather, it suggests how gaming staff can take their soul to their workplace and bring about a small miracle within their ranks. And guess what? Incorporating spirituality in the workplace is good business!

Yes, spirituality in the workplace has become a hot topic among management scholars and practitioners. I recently attended the 4th Annual Conference on Spirituality, Leadership and Management (SLaM) in Canberra. Apart from the expected crowd of New Age buffs, small-time snake-oil consultants, and self-professed executive coaches, there were people from banks and large accounting firms, respected researchers from academia, and high-ranking executives from some of the most well-regarded companies. You guessed right. There wasn’t a single person from the gaming industry. So, what does spirituality have to do with business, you ask. Apparently, a great deal.

I’ll let you in on a not-so-well-kept secret. The soul is “in.” Its advent has made life easier for managers. Its entry has given management new insights on retaining good people and getting the best output from them. Hogwash? Heresy? New Age gobbledegook? Not exactly. Let us look at the landmark findings of a study recently coauthored by Ian Mitroff, one of the most respected names in the organizational behavior literature.

The 1999 empirical study on spirituality in the workplace conducted by Mitroff and Denton offered some fascinating and unexpected findings. The authors report that employees who saw their organizations as being spiritual also viewed their employer as being better than its less spiritual counterpart on almost every dimension. Employees working for companies that they deemed spiritual reported that they were able to bring more of their “complete selves” to work. They felt that they could employ more of their creativity, emotions, and intelligence to the task at hand. But wait, that’s not all… Spiritually inclined firms were also reported as being more profitable!

Employees of “spiritual” firms valued the ability to realize their full-potential as a person within the context of the workplace. In a nutshell, organizations perceived as spiritual get more from their employees and vice versa. Mitroff and Denton conclude by saying that modern civilization has gone too far in separating spirituality from other elements of life. It is time to recognize the interconnectedness between spirituality and work; there are obvious benefits in doing so.

So, what is spirituality? A simple, yet fairly comprehensive definition of the concept was provided by Richard Eckersley at last year’s SlaM Conference: Spirituality is a deeply intuitive sense of relatedness or interconnectedness to the world and the universe in which we live. Thus, spirituality is not about religion; rather, it subsumes all religions. Spirituality is definitely about Self and Soul, and Self and Soul are inherent not just within individuals but in corporate entities as well.

Some companies have been quick to realize the benefits of portraying themselves and their products as being soul-oriented. In late 1996, Nissan introduced the Q45 luxury automobile in the US market. Millions of viewers were exposed to the company’s gaudy TV commercial with the slogan, “Everything changes but the soul.” Not the one to be left behind, Ford advertised its 1997 top-of-the-line Lincoln Continental as a car that “gets into your soul, not your pocket.” In 1997, the San Francisco Chronicle characterised soul as the buzzword of the 90s. A front-page story in the paper reported that 322 citations for the word appeared in the 1997 edition of Books in Print, almost four times the number in 1990. A group calling itself the Conscious Business Alliance has been set up in Minneapolis. Its mission: to explore the myriad ways in which the business community can enrich and be enriched by the human spirit.

Okay, I hear your protests. “We are talking about catering to gamblers, for heaven’s sake!” Casinos don’t sell cars to god-fearing decent suburban folks! Introducing spirituality in casinos is like a hamburger joint targeting the Hare Krishnas. Maybe not. While gamblers as a group may appear devoid of spirituality, a careful study of gambling through the ages would probably indicate otherwise.

Kathryn Gabriel, in her excellently researched book, Gambler Way, writes, “Although it may seem to be a contradiction in terms, gambling is as spiritual as praying. Both activities seek divine affirmation and reversal of fortune.” The author cites myriad examples across various cultures and time frames to convince us, beyond doubt, of the spiritual underpinning of gambling. By taking us through Egyptian tomb-paintings, ancient Native American myths, medieval English churches, Chinese temples, Biblical references, and Hindu Scriptures, Gabriel asserts that the basis of gambling is indeed spiritual, though at times, the ones engaging in this activity may not be aware of its sanctity. A similar conclusion emerges after reading F. N. David’s 1962 book, Gambling, Gods, and Games.

In summation of her book Gabriel writes, “What ancients in both hemispheres seem to be saying is that gamblers, and especially gambling addicts, are, in a matter of speaking, spiritual seekers… In other words, the gambler, unbeknownst to him or herself, is looking for divinity. Sure, on the surface they are seeking economic fortune, but they are also seeking a personal transformation, for that feeling of invincibility and liberation, even if for only in the moment of exhilaration… Gambling addictions should not be viewed as inherently evil or immoral, but as a disease of the spirit that uses pleasure to avoid pain. It is not that they are weaker than most, for we are all caught in a cycle of pleasure and pain, but that their pain is more acute and their search for spirituality more urgent. In many Eastern philosophies, this dilemma is known as divine discontent, and as the native gambling myths show, such malaise is a necessary step in the process of becoming spiritual.”

It is time that the gaming industry takes a serious look at spirituality and how it can be incorporated within the work setting. The benefits are many and the costs insignificant. In an industry characterised by high labor turnover, spirituality can bestow the benefits of job satisfaction and a sense of purpose among the rank and file. An industry that has devotedly served as the punching bag for moralists and theologians, can, with the incorporation of spirituality, assert itself and its sense of purpose in the current postmodern social milieu. It is with the Spirit and Self that casinos could better address their target markets and probably improve their bottom line in the process. Any volunteers for sponsoring the SlaM Conference in 2002?

Date Posted: 02-Jan-2002

Sudhir Kale, Ph.D., is Principal Consultant of GamePlan Consulting. He also serves as Associate Professor of Marketing at Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia. Sudhir has written and consulted on a broad range of issues related to the gaming industry. His experience as a long-time punter combined with his systematic scholastic approach to business problems has resulted in solutions that are practical and comprehensive. Sudhir can be contacted at Sudhir_Kale@Bigfoot.com.

 
 
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