The first Northeastern Oklahoma Indigo Sky Expo (NOISE) offered gaming industry expertise and training here in the heart of the area's gaming country.
The three-day expo on May 21, 22 and 23 was presented by the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma's gaming enterprises; Indigo Sky Casino & Resort, Bordertown Casino Arena, and Outpost Casino, and sponsored by Integrated Gaming Solutions and several gaming industry companies.
NOISE was open to tribal leaders, gaming executives and officials, regulators and legislators, vendors, casino employees and tourism and hospitality leaders, and drew a substantial attendance.
Eastern Shawnee Chief Glenna Wallace called the event a “bold” endeavor and credited all who worked hard to bring the expo together at Bordertown and Indigo Sky Casinos.
The Eastern Shawnee Tribe began gaming in 1984 with a Bingo hall, and since then the tribe's gaming enterprises have grown to three gaming facilities and expanded convention and hotel facilities to offer and host such innovative events.
“We all realize we have gaming here, but when you stop and think we have 15 different casinos within 50 miles. Those 15 casinos have over 9,000 slot machines, and those 15 casinos employ over 4,500 employees. Think of the impact on our community if we lost 4,500 jobs,” Wallace said. “We don't think of that in terms of casinos.”
A line up of informative gaming industry breakout sessions, over 250 vendors in attendance, speakers and technology and industry exhibits included in the NOISE Expo were designed to bring the latest and best information together at an accessible and affordable event. The expo offered networking opportunities throughout the event as well.
“In gaming we need training. We need to keep up. We have competition and so we need to always know the latest information and we need to keep abreast of things,” Wallace said.
Sending gaming personnel to Oklahoma City or other locations costs an average of $800 to $900 with travel, per diem and other expenses, according to Wallace.
“We have the ability to do those things ourselves here, and we can bring in the best of training cheaper than we can send one or two people elsewhere, and we can have more people attend and get the benefit of that,” she said. “So we've simply stepped up to the plate and I congratulate the people who have done this, and I'm anxious to hear the comments of the people who attend NOISE.”
The new convention, banquet and hotel facilities at Indigo Sky offered perfect venues for such an event, and the professional staff has proven to be capable of hosting large conventions and conferences.
“We have the facilities and we're proud of the fact that we have never hired an outside management firm to manage. If other people can do it, we are just as smart. We can do this. So, throw down the challenge, accept the challenge and meet the challenge,” Wallace said.
Wallace and Indigo Sky’s Director of Compliance Jerad Swimmer presented Indigo Sky Casino's Assistant General Manager Melanie Chase with the first Pathfinder Award for her vision of creating and offering the Indian gaming NOISE Expo here in northeast Oklahoma.
“We are honored to be on her team,” Swimmer said.
Chase credited the Indigo Sky team and the Eastern Shawnee Tribal leadership for bringing her vision to reality to Indigo Sky to offer greater accessibility to state of the art gaming industry training and the latest technology.
“This team is incredible, and we have tremendous support,” she said.
Tribal gaming attendees came from California, Minnesota, Alabama and from all across the state to take advantage of the opportunity to network and gain more casino industry knowledge and training.
Swimmer said in the future NOISE will expand and offer additional areas of training related to the gaming industry.
The keynote speaker for the event, Brad Worthley, is an accomplished business consultant with over 43 years of management experience and international acclaim in leadership, customer service, and motivational expertise. His client list contains some of the largest and most prestigious organizations in the world from a diverse range of industries, including more than 50 Tribal governments and their enterprises.
After his introduction, Worthley said that he had never before presented in a venue with a mechanical bull in the venue, and pointed out such unique features are what draws guests to Bordertown.
“Primarily casinos have a lot of the same stuff, slot machines, table games, it’s what we call a commoditized industry. The more commoditized you are, the harder you have to work to find your unique differentiating factor, it's what's unique about us that helps draw people into our organization, and service is it,” Worthley said. “What it really comes down to is the people that we hire. So you have to raise your hiring bar...You hire the smile, and you train the skill.”
Worthley said hiring people who smile, are interactive and engaging is key to success in industries heavily dependent on good customer service.
“You can train employees to do anything,” he said. “ But if you don't have people who know how to smile, you can't train people to smile.”
In the highly competitive quest for gaming dollars and revenues maximizing casino guests' experiences, going above and beyond in customer service is important to sustain and grow business, according to Worthley.
“We want to come in and do business with businesses we enjoy doing business with,” he said. “My wife and I when we play blackjack we walk along the casino and pick the dealer smiling. We actually don't care if we win or lose. If we spend an hour with someone who's smiling, engaging and talking with us and having fun, that's what we came in there for - that experience.”
Leadership is essential for exceptional customer service, Worthley said, “We're all chasing the same thing and you have to work harder and focus.”
If only employees are trained in customer service and leadership doesn't adhere to the same standards the hypocrisy causes employees to feel disrespected and demotivated, according to Worthley.
He believes customer service training from the top administration, and leadership of any organization down to the employees working on the gaming floors is important and the NOISE event was a perfect opportunity for all levels to gain insight and useful tools in casino gaming.
“The most critical component to creating a great service culture is you've got to get leadership trained to be great leaders first, and not manage or boss but lead instead,” he said. “I'm thrilled they put this together because it's an opportunity to give people at all different levels the kind of wisdom and knowledge they need to be successful. So I think this was an awesome idea.