Operations: Why Integrity Matters

by David Vialpando

It goes without saying that integral to the success of tribal casino gaming is integrity. This includes integrity in the conduct of gaming, the outcome of games, financial accounting, vendor relationships, addressing patron concerns and complaints, ensuring responsible gaming, and ensuring regulatory compliance. The tremendous success tribes have realized in casino gaming since the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) is in no small measure due to the unwavering commitment by tribal nations to integrity in all aspects of casino gaming. In a society where truth, honesty, and integrity seem to be dismissed or ignored as essential values in government, the corporate sector, education, and other areas of life, it behooves us to revisit their importance in casino gaming.

The dictionary defines integrity as: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” Integrity in the context of our responsibility as casino gaming operators and regulators is about being honest, trustworthy, reliable, and adhering to well-defined ethical principles. It’s about being consistent in our actions, words, and values, regardless of the situation or the potential for personal gain or criticism. Our effectiveness and success as gaming professionals is directly tied to our reputation for honesty, clarity, and credibility. Ethical behavior fosters trust and cooperation among colleagues, promotes honest business practices, and contributes to a healthy and productive work environment. Integral to integrity is honesty, adherence to the facts, and truth, which equates to credibility. Once lost, integrity and trust are nearly impossible to restore. How many times have we heard the utterance, “I lied then, but I’m telling you the truth now,” or witnessed a failure of an individual or organization to admit to a lapse in truth and honesty despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

Integrity is such an important requirement that many casino and tribal gaming regulatory agency employee handbooks provide sanction up to and including termination of employment for misrepresentation of the facts or lying. A gaming employee may have their employment terminated not for the potential violation of a policy or procedure, but for misrepresentation of the truth during an investigation of a suspected violation.

In the casino gaming industry, we all too frequently take integrity for granted because the vast majority of casino operators, employees, and regulators are honest and truthful people. This fact notwithstanding, it behooves us to be ever vigilant for the occasional misstep in integrity, neglect of the truth, and failure in honesty. Every regulatory transgression since the passage of IGRA uncovered by federal and tribal gaming regulators can be traced at its core to a failure in integrity. The potential damage resulting from a lapse of integrity can be catastrophic and unrecoverable.

The first step in reinforcing the importance of integrity in casino operations and regulatory agencies is adopting integrity, honesty, and an unwavering commitment to the truth as foundational values for the organization. The next step is holding all employees accountable for honesty and truth in all professional interactions. Casino gaming is not unique in this imperative in maintaining absolute integrity. The 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland requires disclosure to the defense of evidence a law enforcement officer may have in his or her personnel file regarding a sustained finding of untruthfulness and this may be considered by the jury or court in judging whether testimony by an officer is truthful or not. No less priority on the truth should be placed on casinos operators and gaming regulators required to testify under oath at gaming commission hearings, in official reports, and other venues where truthful testimony is required. A casino employee or regulator who has documented past instances of untruthfulness or dishonesty will forever cast doubt on that employee’s integrity.

Prevailing research has shown that people with integrity share several key traits and characteristics:

  • They are honest, always telling the truth and being transparent in their actions.
  • They are accountable, taking responsibility for their actions and their consequences.
  • They are consistent, acting in line with their values and beliefs at all times.
  • They are reliable, doing what they say they will do.
  • They are respectful, treating others with kindness and fairness, regardless of their status or differences.
  • They avoid dishonesty by omission or concealment of unflattering facts.

It has been said that a person’s commitment to truth and integrity is a demonstration of their strength of character. At the end of the day, character and integrity are all that any of us have to define us as honest and reliable professionals. Those who rely on the truth demand the truth from others and this dynamic provides a means of honestly evaluating our organization and the gaming industry’s commitment to integrity.

In evaluating our personal commitment to the truth and integrity, it is helpful to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Did I neglect to tell the truth at any time today?
  • Did I say yes when I really should have said no? This is an example of pleaser behavior.
  • Did I promise to do something or commit to something and then fail to deliver?
  • Did I mislead someone by agreeing to do something in less time than was realistic?
  • Would I be embarrassed if the person I respect the most witnessed something I did today?
  • Am I committed to truth and honesty even when no one is watching?

The foundation of a person’s commitment to integrity and honesty with others begins with their commitment to being honest and trustworthy with themselves. If the following characteristics can be attributed to an individual, they are well on the way to living a life of integrity, both personally and professionally – factual, sincere, genuine, trustworthy, and authentic.

At the root of the success of the tribal casino gaming industry is the commitment to absolute integrity by tribal governments, casino operators and employees, gaming vendors, and gaming regulators. Our hope is that other segments of society return to a world where integrity, truth, and honesty matter, but until then, we will stay the course and reap the benefits.

David Vialpando is Executive Director of the Pokagon Band Gaming Commission and Vice-Chairman of Tribal Gaming Protection Network. He can be reached by calling (269) 926-5485 or email [email protected].