Casino and hospitality company Raving kicked off its three-day conference in Albuquerque Tuesday by focusing on strategic operations and leadership development for tribal gaming. The conference, called Raving Next, is being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the Isleta Resort & Casino of the Pueblo of Isleta Tribe and has attracted attendees from across the country.
The event kicked off with a video address by Ernie Stevens, chairman of the Indian Gaming Association, talking about the new Congress.
“We’re on the front lines in Washington, D.C., and we have a lot of priorities to deal with in this new Congress. We’re working hard,” Stevens said.
One of the panel sessions at Raving Next focuses on the ways in which future legislation impacts tribal economic development, gaming operations, and sovereignty.
Stevens thanked Raving for promoting the tribal-gaming industry and leadership.
“There’s so much to discuss in our industry — regulation, innovation, and all the professionals that make the world turn,” Stevens said. “We can’t rest. We have important things to do, not just in this new Congress, but for the protection of tribal sovereignty, to build economic development, and take care of families, communities, and resources we provide to Indian country.”
Stevens was followed by a speech by Raving CEO Deana Scott.
Scott told the audience that the people in attendance represent one-quarter of gaming tribes in the U.S. That makes it a powerful group.
“We needed a place to get together to talk about these issues,” Scott said. “As Raving celebrates 25 years, this is the first year we combined strategic operations and leadership.”
Scott said it’s important to build sustainable organizations and invest in people and Raving Next is about how those organizations should look and who are the people that should lead the vision.
“Many of today’s gaming resorts began as modest bingo halls,” Scott said, pointing to the Isleta resort. “What an amazing transformation. But according to our pre-conference survey, these facilities provide more than 60% of funding for tribal programs and tribal-citizen opportunities.”
Scott said these Tribal-casino developments weren’t created for 90-day or annual shareholder returns, but infrastructure and businesses that will serve tribes for the next seven generations and beyond.
“This is why collaboration among our ever-growing tribal organizations is critical,” Scott said. “The decisions we make in one department or one business impact the other areas, whether you realize it or not. Building strategic organizations is a journey that takes a systematic long-term approach.”
As technology and competition change the gaming industry, those strategic organizations must grow and adapt to meet the challenges, Scott said.
“Being a leader is hard,” Scott said. “We must ask the toughest questions and truly listen to the ugly answers. As leaders, we must be brave enough to get messy, set our egos aside, and listen, then dig in, make the changes, and help the team grow.”
The number-one challenge facing organizations today is lack of staff, Scott said. The average turnover rate at casino properties is 50% to 52%. “I ask you if the problem is the people or the organization,” Scott said. The conference will help tackle this ongoing issue.
“I challenge you to help change our industry turnover rate to something we can truly be proud of,” Scott said. “We’re getting started here in New Mexico and tribes are leading the way when it comes to building future-focused organizations.”