Pure Entertainment

Pure Canadian Gaming

The world of gaming is tricky business. In order to be a market leader, one must have something that the others do not possess. Pure Canadian Gaming is just that leader within the corporate casino field, and maintains this position by, first and foremost, treating the customer like gold.

Many organizations claim to care about clientele, but this isn’t always the reality. Business in Focus spoke with George Goldhoff, the Pure Canadian Gaming’s enthusiastic President & CEO, about the importance of customer service and some current changes underway.

Pure Canadian Gaming, the largest gaming company in Alberta, began life as Casino ABS with the ABS standing for Alberta Bingo Supplies. The company was formed in 1973 by Heinz Oldach, a pioneer in the Western Canadian gaming business. In 2013 it was rebranded as Pure Canadian Gaming with its new name promoting a vision of the company’s future.

Of the twenty-six casinos that dot the province, four belong to Pure Canadian Gaming. Between the four, Casino Edmonton, Casino Lethbridge, Casino Calgary and Casino Yellowhead offer approximately one hundred table games, fifty poker tables, three thousand slot machines as well as associated food, beverage and entertainment facilities.

The company’s casinos reflect Western Canadian roots. “They have their own style. We are not Las Vegas. We consider ourselves to be an entertainment company, but we differ from what you would see in Nevada or Las Vegas or even Ontario. Canadians are typically a little more modest, but they do enjoy their entertainment and we are also focused on the one-on-one relationships that we create with our players and guests.”

One way that PCG has been creating relationships with the gaming public and its loyal patrons is through what it calls Pure Rewards, its rewards card program. One of the key focuses when the brand was launched in 2013, was getting the player loyalty program running correctly. “We launched one previously with ABS but nobody really understood it. It was a little confusing. Most casinos in Alberta were operating with player loyalty programs, but they did not provide much for the player. Our goal was to create a program that would reward our guests and players for frequenting PCG properties.”

Membership is free to all guests, and the card provides discounts on food, beverages and merchandise and the richest point accumulations in the province. Points are awarded for simply visiting and, of course, for playing. In the first month after the launch on the second of April, 2013, there was a 500% increase in new card signups and player card use. “People responded quite well to it. Even today it continues to attract new guests.” Through player club database programs, the company is able to determine customer wants and, while focusing on rewarding the higher worth players, uses this information to plan future offerings.

Included in the rewards program are gaming opportunities outside of Alberta through an affiliation with a sister property in Las Vegas owned by the same parent company. “Since we have an affiliated property, we have the opportunity to reward our players with trips to Vegas and so we are fortunate and unique in that aspect.” The Tropicana in Las Vegas was built in the fifties and the parent company invested heavily in a complete makeover to create the New Tropicana. This is a huge draw which has helped increased enrolment in the Pure Rewards program.

Pure Canadian Gaming is currently in the midst of renovating its casinos, including the addition of new High Limit gaming rooms, a hotel and a number of new restaurants. Whatever touches the guests or enhances their experience is being looked at as a possible renovation opportunity. New chairs in all the properties will ensure comfort at slot machines or the tables. There are also new tables, felts, rails, new chips, lights, new sound, carpets and wall coverings.

Invisible comforts are also being upgraded. Building systems people take for granted like HVAC units need to be replaced as the casinos have been around since 1973 and the HVAC units are no longer efficient. If it’s too hot or too cold in the casinos the customers won’t be tempted to stay.

New restaurant concepts such as delis, noodle bars and new bars and entertainment venues are being added after guests responded positively. In the Lethbridge casino a deli bar is being converted into a sushi bar, after market research was undertaken. “Sushi, thirty years ago, was innovative and unique; people would raise their eyebrows and were unsure of it. Now it’s mainstream even in a smaller community like Lethbridge. Our players and guests have told us that they would welcome that.” Though it’s a small area of about forty seats, it offers something different in casino food and beverage offerings and something different is what the current players want.

In Lethbridge, there was also some underutilized land adjacent to the casino and as the hotel/casino combination benefits the casino, the company is planning a full service hotel with banquet facilities for the site. While it is still in the preliminary planning stages, the hotel will be attached to the casino for a seamless guest experience and should be between 125-140 rooms and reminiscent of a Marriott standard. While convenient for casino guests, the hotel will function as a self sustaining business on its own.

However, the primary focus of the recent changes has to do with the employees. Pure Canadian Gaming employs some one thousand people and George admits that the company had fallen a bit behind the competition in investing in its people, but major programs over the last two years have catapulted it back to the top. “I can put all the Persian rugs, gold plated doorknobs and crystal chandeliers in this place, but what has been truly our focus and our success in investment has been our employees. We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on training, and our employees are better trained, more friendly and happier. Our guests are the beneficiaries of that.”

Responsible gaming is any casino’s professional, social and ethical responsibility. Employees have to be trained in order to recognize the signs of problem gambling and understand what Pure Canadian Gaming offers in the way of early intervention. To that end the company has partnered with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission to provide responsible gaming assistance which takes the form of responsible gaming centres located at every site it operates. “There is no long term benefit for our company to not recognize problem gambling. We don’t want those players. We want players that come in for the entertainment value and come for decades.”

The responsible gaming centres look for the telltale signs of problem gambling. For example, if someone keeps going back to the ATM for funds, or if someone comes in intoxicated, they are identified by staff and an intervention will take place. Government officials help, so it is a collaborative effort. It takes the form of a verbal intervention and the gamer would be provided with brochures describing responsible gaming and where to seek assistance. This shows how crucial employee training is; as players have to be treated with respect at all times, employees are trained in conflict resolution.

As for the future, PCG wants to grow organically and evaluate potential opportunities. “We are optimizing our existing assets and considering further development of our acquisitions like the new hotel. Within chosen markets in Western Canada we would obviously entertain any opportunities that offer potential to create shareholder value, but we want to drive incremental growth through our existing properties.” The strategic focus internally is about providing sterling customer service. That means continually hiring and sourcing the right talent in order to create the customer experience which in turn leads to growth opportunities.

When asked where he sees the company in ten years, George says, “I would hope to have a company that is twice our present size. There will always be growing pains when you change, but if the change is communicated effectively – and you involve your team members – people get really excited about it and become enthusiastic. I believe that you are constantly having to change. If you don’t then you become irrelevant.”

For more information about Pure Canadian Gaming, please visit http://www.purecanadiangaming.com/

December 11, 2017, 2:34 AM EST