I really hate that phrase. And I hear it all the time.
“It is what it is”…usually uttered with a smile, a sigh, a shoulder shrug.
A common passive-aggressive response to subjects of casino management and tribal politics.
Who thought of that?!
Why did this happen instead of what was originally planned?
Isn’t it supposed to be that way instead of this way?
“It is what it is.”
But the reality is, it’s not what it should be. In fact, it’s light-years from what it was ever intended to be.
It’s my understanding that Foxwoods Resort Casino was developed for three reasons.
1. To promote tribal culture by constructing and supporting the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe’s museum. The plan was to preserve Pequot and New England tribal culture and history, which would also be reflected throughout all phases of the resort.
2. To establish a stable and reliable economy for the tribe.
And 3. It was built so that Pequots could develop successful careers, learn business skills, become entrepreneurs and grow into leadership positions.
Yet, despite all of those plans, it is what it is.
So how did we lose sight of where we started? Perhaps the following questions can help to illuminate the situation in retrospect.
PROMOTING TRIBAL CULTURE
- Is the tribe’s museum celebrated and supported as a key component of the resort? Is it embraced by the executive team, or is it more of an afterthought?
- Do the resort’s esthetics reflect the tribe’s culture accurately?
- Do resort-development concepts and plans aim to reflect a Vegas-style influence rather than the original tribal development plans?
STABILIZING THE TRIBE’S ECONOMY
- Excessive spending and poor financial management has propelled our tribe into a financial tailspin. Has high debt, a rock-bottom credit rating, default, and the restructure process redirected financial oversight into the hands of the tribe’s creditors?
- Has the tribal council made headway in establishing checks and balances on government power, spending, and resource allocation in order to prevent history from repeating itself?
- Does the tribal council resist the concept of separation of powers? Do they enforce the status quo; striving to keep all government power to themselves?
CASINO EXECUTIVES AND CAREER DEVELOPMENT
- Is the executive employee turnover rate extraordinarily high? Is the “original intent” lost in translation due to the continual rotation of new faces on the executive floor?
- Are executives embracing opportunities to mentor tribal members in areas of which they are interested, trained or college educated? Or is it mostly random, entry-level positions that are offered to the tribe as employment opportunities?
- Is there a successful career development program in place; one that embraces and motivates both tribal members and non-tribal employees who are dedicated, willing to learn and contribute positively to the overall resort?
- Are tribal members required to have more training than non-tribal members for the same positions?
- Are non-tribal internships paid while tribal internships remain unpaid?
- Do executives extend a higher level of favor and support to their consultant “friends” and agencies than they do toward their own department employees?
- Do executives extend “ownership” of key departmental areas to their consultants and agencies either at the expense of the tribe or without the tribe’s knowledge?
- Are consultants / agencies given the lion’s share of a department’s budget allocation, edging out any potential for tribal members and other employees to reach professional career opportunities in key departments?
- Is employee morale high, low, or indifferent?
No, these questions should not translate to mean that all casino executives and tribal council members are missing their marks. But the truth is, these concerns definitely apply to some.
And it only takes a few powerful, corrupted individuals to redefine an environment over a long period of time.
So have we taken a few wrong turns over the last two decades? And if we have, when and how? It’s not an easy problem to navigate, and there are many potential root causes. Perhaps there was greed. Perhaps some have been afraid to make unpopular-yet-necessary tough choices. Perhaps there was selfish ambition, or neglect, or ignorance or even family politics involved in decision-making over the years.
It is what it is. It’s far from what it was ever meant to be.
And, God willing, it’s still not too late to change things for the better.