Guard the Wall

Harm to your casino enters in more places than the front door. Do you have all your access points well covered?

A Few Good Men is a classic movie, although a little underrated in my opinion.  The most iconic scene has Jack Nicholson on the stand being grilled by Tom Cruise as he tries to prove the events of an untimely death of a fellow soldier. Nicholson passionately defends himself, trying to help Cruise’s character understand his job is to “guard the wall”. To protect what comes in and out of his camp. SPOILER ALERT! In the end, his emotional detailing of the events proves that he was responsible for the man’s death, in part because he was so busy protecting the camp from external threats that he missed an internal threat.  I love the example because it demonstrates that risks can come from within (people that are supposed to be in your organization) or from outside the walls (people coming in but are not part of your organization).

The more I think about it, the more I realize how much it applies to the Tribal casino industry. To be fair, I think the industry does a good job at recognizing both types of potential risk. External threats would include people coming in the casino to cause harm. This might include robbing the vault Ocean’s Eleven style, laundering money like you are Walter White, or even causing harm to people – even if it isn’t malicious – like John Q. It may also be as simple as an irate customer that takes up more of your team’s time than needed. These external threats are often curbed by the simple presence of Security. Obviously, Security is even more effective when they receive appropriate training and work within an appropriate set of internal controls. In recent years, I’ve attended countless conferences that have offered active shooter training. This is a great representation of proactively mitigating external threats. We cannot completely control who is coming into our casinos, but we can – and do – build some controls around what happens after they do.

It is an opinion by all accounts – but I think the risk of internal threats is greater for most casinos. In my years of experience, internal fraud is far more common than vault robberies. Some combination of poor internal controls and crafty criminals provides us with far too many examples of people that are supposed to be in the casino causing harm. In most of these examples, it involves money. Greed is difficult to control. That said, I would argue that most internal attacks in Tribal gaming are not intentional. I can’t even think of a pop culture reference for an accidental loss of revenue or data; yet that is likely the leader when considering risk assessment. I’m not even limiting that to Tribal gaming – I’d wager most industries suffer more potential loss in revenue, data, and efficiency because of unintentional, internal threats. Training, communication, and a strong culture are all examples of items that help mitigate these risks.

The reality, though, is that the risks of Tribal casinos is most attributed to circumstances. In Jack Nicholson’s famous dissertation about the events that led up to the death, he outlines the specific circumstances for why he did what he did. Tom Cruise continues to push him for the truth, to which Nicholson famously responds, “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH”. Of course, he then outlines the details by which he admits his role in murder. The good news is no one is on trial for murder here. The point I’m trying to make is this – you have to be able to “handle” the truth of your circumstances. You need a complete, honest evaluation of potential issues. Get a risk assessment. Understand where you are so you can understand where you need to be.

Protect your casino, inside and out!

Doug Parker
Tribal Business Consultant, MBA, BSACC
Finley & Cook

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