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What Would Al Swearengen Do?

By Chuckmonster on Sunday, 9th November 2008 4:15am
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 0


Al Swearengen

What would Al Swearengen do if he were a casino boss today?

Anyone who has seen Deadwood knows Swearengen would be ruthless, offer grease as needed, rewrite the news to his advantage and get down on his knees and scrub blood stains from the floor of the Gem Saloon.

Perhaps the most telling peek into the mind of Al Swearengen comes when he admits that Gil Tolliver (owner of a competing gambling hall) has outflanked him by purchasing land in the section of Deadwood inhabited by gambling crazy Chinese immigrants. Note, Swearengen speaks frankly in extremely colorful, and politically incorrect language.

What about that fucking Tolliver buying up property on the QT, eh?

Nonetheless, it says that the man sees the fucking possibilities of things. To come up with - at this fucking juncture - an idea of creating an emporium for the fucking chinks - takes brass fucking balls and a long term vision for the future.

- Al Swearengen, Deadwood, "The Plague" - Season 1 Episode 6 (Clip (quote starts at 3:10)

On the surface, The Gem dealt in booze, whores and Faro tables but it's real business dealings extended to local mining rights, extortion, racketeering and violence. Despite his relentlessly manipulative and violent tendencies, Al Swearengen was a pillar of Deadwood society, a steadying entity of law and order in a lawless and chaotic frontier town.

Current casino bosses look like button down nerds compared to the Deadwood mafia. The difference between Swearengen's habit of curling up in bed with one of the whores in his employ, and Harrah's CEO Gary Loveman dancing into dreamland spreadsheets and newfangled marketing algorithms may seem to be worlds apart, but both men have one thing on their mind : separating you from your money.

So how would Swearengen fare if he were at the reigns of Harrah's today?

When presented with tanking casino win numbers, would Swearengen disappoint his customers by removing progressive slot machines from the casino floor or strong arm a new fee structure with the manufacturers? Both, sorta. He'd probably get the head of slot manufacturing companies hooked on junk, offer empty bribes and death threats, or uncover an embarrassing peccadillo to help expedite negotiations. It's safe say that the last thing Swearengen would do is anything that would upset his customers.

How about cutting fringe benefits (comps) of high rollers to save cash? Even in the bleakest of times, Swearengen was always generous with bowls full of canned peaches when in the right company. Ditching semi-ritzy Diamond Lounge foodstuffs for plates of pureed garbanzo beans and toasted bread? Never.

How about trimming maintenance and upkeep budget in the hopes of saving a few bucks? Never... Al Swearengen would get on his hands and knees whenever pesky pools of blood set into the wood floors at The Gem.

How about that 180 acre golf course in Macau which Harrah's paid US$580M for, only to find out six months later that the Chinese government wasn't going to allow any further casino construction? Swearengen never would've botched reconnoitering the Macau/Cotai rim upon hearing of competitors' sniffing around. Even if Swearengen had been as late to the game as Harrah's was, any and all municipal wheels would've been greased to the vest pocket prior to any investment being made.

How about the gobs of employees being peeled off at Harrah's casinos nationwide? Would Swearengen set his workforce of whores loose at every ebb and flow of the gold strike economy? Certainly not... he'd make them work harder to upsell services, lubricate visitors with comp rounds of whisky, and offer other incentives.

Yes, Al Swearengen is a louse, gangster, thug and a criminal... but he is a perfect - albeit fictional - prototype for a successful casino operator. Perhaps Lanni, Adelson, Wynn and Loveman should consider adding Deadwood to their Netflix queue... they might learn a few things about customer service, business acumen, productivity, media manipulation and employee relations.



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