The Gambler Who Blew $127 Million

Of all the segments of the hospitality industry, casino hotels are probably the strangest.  Whereas in hotels, restaurants, spas, cruises, and timeshares, the company’s objective is unquestionably to provide a memorable guest experience, casino hotels’ added variable of gambling can create a lot of animosity between the guest and the property.

What is striking in this page-turner of an article is that the ultimate goal of the company appears somewhat at odds with the guest experience.  In most hospitality businesses, the revenue center and the guest experience center are the same: the hotel, the restaurant, and so forth.  Thus, if you improve the guest experience, you have the potential to boost the top line.

In casino hotels, the casino floor is the revenue generation center, and the other hotel, restaurant, and spa amenities are mostly just there for support.  The guest experience in most of the property’s outlets has little bearing on the property’s revenue generation, which plays by an entirely different set of rules, the ethics and morality of which some citizens question.

In reading this article, one cannot help but suspect that the casino preyed on this millionaire gambler, using the guest experience (luxury suites, $12,500 per month in airfare, special preparation of meals, a new loyalty program rank, a cadre of personal handlers, his picture in the employee back room) as nothing more than bait.

And in a movie-like twist, it is now the gambler, the guest, Mr. Watanabe, who faces 28 years of jail time for allegedly defrauding the casino by failing to pay $14.7 million in credit extended to him.  Whether true or false, something about that outcome seems completely contradictory with hospitality.  Not to mention, wrong.

Read the WSJ article here.

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