Does NFL Put Your Staffers on ‘Fantasy Island?’

I’m what you’d call a fantasy football enthusiast. I never allow myself to join more than two leagues, however (normally one with money, and one just for pride), lest I lose focus. And I’m not one to be bragadocious, but I’ve won my paid league three out of the last four years — but whatever. Surprisingly, women never seem to be as impressed by that on first dates as one might think. But they soon change their tunes when that $100 first place check rolls in at the end of the season and I treat them to a romantic evening at Applebee’s. "Go ahead, get some dessert; you’re rolling with a champion tonight."

Challenger, Gray & Christmas sent a release that I’ll post in its entirety below conveying that while 21 million American workers indulge in the seductive temptress that is fantasy football, employers may not need to view it as a danger to productivity.

With less than two weeks to go before the opening kick-off in the National Football League season, fantasy football participants across the country are undoubtedly spending more time than usual fine-tuning their draft selections and rosters due to a lock-out shortened pre-season.  Unfortunately for the nation’s employers, some of the extra time spent on player research may come during business hours.

However, even with an estimated 21.3 million full-time workers participating in fantasy sports each year, with some spending as much as nine hours per week managing their teams, the impact on overall workplace productivity is negligible, according to the workplace experts at global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“In an information-based economy, productivity is very difficult to measure.  And the same widespread access to the internet from our desks, phones and laptops that allows people to manage their fantasy teams from any place at any time, also allows work to be completed outside of traditional 9-to-5 work hours,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

According to statistics from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, the number of people participating in fantasy sports in the United States and Canada has grown 60 percent over the past four years to 32 million.  The Association’s research indicates that 19 percent of full-time workers in the U.S. have played fantasy sports in the past year. That comes to about 21,253,000 workers.

Football is, of course, the most popular fantasy sport, played by roughly 80 percent of all fantasy sports participants.  According to market research, players spend up to nine hours a week planning and plotting their strategies for weekly matchups in 70 million free and paid leagues (the average player belongs to 2.5 leagues).

“It is impossible to determine how much of that weekly prep time is spent during work hours.  It is even more difficult to determine how time spent managing teams during work hours actually impacts productivity or the company’s bottom line,” said Challenger.

“If you look at a company’s third and fourth quarter earnings statements, it is unlikely that you will find a fantasy football effect.  The impact is more likely to be seen by department managers and team leaders, who have a better sense of their workers’ day-to-day work flow.  Even at level, though, it might not be worth cracking down on fantasy football, unless the quantity or quality of an individual’s work drops off significantly,” he added.

A survey conducted during the 2010 football season by Challenger found that fantasy football had little to no impact on productivity.  Ranking the level of distraction on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no noticeable impact, nearly 70 percent said four or lower.  Less than eight percent of respondents said the level of distraction rated a 7 or 8 and none of the respondents felt the phenomenon deserved a 9 or 10.

“An across-the-board ban on all fantasy football or sports websites could backfire in the form of reduced morale and loyalty.  The result could be far worse than the loss of productivity caused by 10 to 20 minutes of team management each day.

“Companies that not only allow workers to indulge in fantasy football, but actually encourage it by organizing company leagues are likely to see significant benefits in morale as well as productivity,” Challenger said. “In the long run, this may lead to increased employee retention.”

In a 2006 Ipsos survey, 40 percent of respondents said fantasy sports participation was a positive influence in the workplace.  Another 40 percent said it increases camaraderie among employees.  One in five said their involvement in fantasy sports enabled them to make a valuable business contact.

Furthermore, a more recent study by researchers at the National University of Singapore found that occasional non-work-related web browsing at the office can refresh tired workers and enhance overall productivity.

Despite evidence of fantasy football’s positive impact on the workplace, less than eight percent those surveyed by Challenger last season said their companies “embrace” fantasy football participation as a morale-boosting activity and none of the employers reported officially organized leagues.

And yes, for the first time, the Chamber is having an internal league for staff. Of course, it’s just for pride (and assuming pride is a zero sum game, I plan to acquire all of it by the end of the season).

Adding Up the 2010 Gaming Numbers

Indiana’s riverboats experienced slight admissions (0.4%) and revenue (1.27%) declines in 2010, according to a recently release report from RubinBrown, a St. Louis-based accounting and business consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and gaming industry.

The company’s 52-page (the Indiana specifics are on Pages 22-25) Gaming Stats report takes an in-depth look at commerical casinos in five states — Missouri, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. It also examines tribal gaming in five states.

A few of the highlights:

  • In Indiana, Horseshoe in Hammond accounts for more than 23% of both admissions and statewide revenue. Next in both categories is Hollywood in Lawrenceburg — with 14% of admissions and 18% of revenues.
  • Missouri continues to lead in casino revenue growth, bringing in over $1.7 billion in revenue and more than $450 million in commercial gaming tax revenue in 2010.
  • Colorado, the only other state to see an increase in adjusted gross revenue, experienced an increase of $25 million during 2010 and generated more than $107 million in commercial gaming tax revenue. The passage of Amendment 50 by Colorado voters in 2009, which allowed the maximum bet at casinos to be raised from $5 to $100 and permitted properties to remain open 24 hours a day, can be attributed as one of the main causes for Colorado’s revenue increase in 2010.
  • Although AGR and admissions declined in 2010, 1.59 and 3.59 percent respectively, Iowa-based casinos saw patrons spending more per trip on average from the previous year.
  • Illinois, again, experienced the most marked drop in revenues among Midwestern states, with a statewide decrease of 4 percent for commercial gaming revenues. Also significant, Illinois riverboat gaming fell to its lowest levels in a decade and horse racing and lotteries remained flat. However, these revenues, according to Adams, may stabilize in late 2011 due to the opening of the Rivers Casino near Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The new facility is expected to generate $150 million in annual tax revenue and create over 1,000 permanent jobs in the Chicago area.
     

A Turn of Luck for the Gaming Industry?

Business and consulting firm Rubin Brown issued a release last week asserting the American gaming industry has seen a slight boost of late. However, note toward the end of the statement that Indiana gaming saw a slight downturn in 2010. Hopefully, 2011 will be a different story:

The nation’s gaming industry stabilized in 2010 with a slight increase in adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of 0.34 percent over 2009. This was the first time the industry has seen an increase in revenue since 2007 reports RubinBrown, one of the Midwest’s largest accounting and business consulting firms.  Commercial  and Tribal Gaming Stats 2011, available at http://www.rubinbrown.com, pools 2010 data from 448 commercial land-based and riverboat casinos in 14 states with legalized gambling. Data was compiled from state gaming regulatory authorities and the American Gaming Association.

From a regional perspective, the Midwest held steady again in 2010, with the five Midwest states referenced in the report comprising 25 percent of 2010 AGR of the 14 states with commercial gaming. Gaming in the Midwest experienced a $21 million decline in revenues during 2010, which is much improved compared to the $74 million decline in 2009. Missouri and Colorado were the only two Midwest states to see a boost in gaming revenue, with 3.35 and 3.4 percent increases respectively. Other states to see an increase in revenue include Pennsylvania, which led the nation in revenue growth with a drastic 26 percent increase; Nevada, which, although the state only saw a slight increase of 0.12 percent, is faring better than the double digit decrease it saw in 2009; and South Dakota, which experienced a moderate increase of 3.92 percent.

Missouri continues to lead the Midwest in casino revenue growth, bringing in over $1.7 billion in revenue and more than $450 million in commercial gaming tax revenue in 2010. Due to the opening of the River City Casino in St. Louis in early 2010, the St. Louis region increased its AGR by 7.52 percent to lead the market in Missouri, comprising nearly half of state-wide revenue. The Kansas City region followed behind with almost 40 percent and other communities in the state made up the remaining 10 percent. However, with the surrender of St. Louis’ President Casino license and the development of the Isle of Capri Casino in Cape Girardeau, which is expected to bring in over $67 million in new gambling revenues, these breakdowns may change in 2012.

Colorado, the only other state to see an increase in AGR, experienced an increase of $25 million during 2010 and generated more than $107 million in commercial gaming tax revenue. The passage of Amendment 50 by Colorado voters in 2009, which allowed the maximum bet at casinos to be raised from $5 to $100 and permitted properties to remain open 24 hours a day, can be attributed as one of the main causes for Colorado’s revenue increase in 2010.

The report credits the slight increase in overall gaming revenues to the continued economic recovery throughout the nation. Although operators have felt the impact of the Great Recession with reduced consumer spending, mergers, bankruptcies, strict lending requirements and stalled capital projects, the rebound for the gaming industry is starting to occur.

“Gaming continues to expand through changes in gaming legalization, updates in technology and expansion into new markets,” said Chelle Adams, partner-in-charge of RubinBrown’s Hospitality and Gaming Services Group. “One of the trends that we’re currently seeing and expecting to see more of in the next few years is an expansion of non-gaming amenities at casinos, such as entertainment venues, restaurants, spas and golf courses. These additions are being utilized to draw patrons to the casinos’ complete destination experience as several patrons are cutting back on traveling and vacations.”

Despite the growth in Missouri and Colorado, not all Midwest states experienced similar success in 2010. Indiana saw its gaming revenues decline again by a slight 1.27 percent and overall admissions decreased by 0.4 percent, a significant change from the 4 percent increase in 2009. Although AGR and admissions declined in 2010, 1.59 and 3.59 percent respectively, Iowa-based casinos saw patrons spending more per trip on average from the previous year.

Ohio Casinos Will Diminish Indiana Winnings

The fifth time was the charm for supporters of gaming in Ohio. Voters had rejected the approval of casinos in Ohio four times over the last couple decades, but apparently the Buckeye State’s fiscal concerns trumped the opposition as the referendum to allow land-based gambling operations in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo was approved with 53% of the vote in November’s election. Gaming in Ohio will certainly help that state with its revenue problems, but will just as certainly make Indiana’s fiscal picture worse by cutting into our gaming tax revenues.

Indiana currently receives about $250 million dollars a year from three riverboats that are within a short drive of Cincinnati. It is estimated that up to 38% of the riverboat patrons come from out of state. The Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg and Grand Victoria Casino & Resort in Rising Sun are just minutes from Cincinnati and could both be seriously impacted by a casino there. The Belterra Casino Resort & Spa in Vevay is a little further down the Ohio River, but likely would also feel the effects.

Additionally, the other casinos could draw away some of the traffic at the already greatly suffering Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson. All told, Indiana gaming tax revenues could drop by as much as $100 million. These likely future losses to Indiana follow the losses now being experienced at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City due to the opening of a new tribal casino last year just across the border in Michigan. In addition, Kentucky could well be the next state to siphon off revenues as the pressure mounts to allow slots at its horse tracks.

Bottom line: As more players enter the game, Indiana’s share of the winnings is sure to diminish.

I Was Just Wondering …

  • Why does the U.S. Senate routinely have meetings scheduled at 2 p.m. to discuss what is commonly termed "morning business?"
  • Speaking of the Senate, will it actually add strong nuclear energy language to the climate legislation that is almost assuredly becoming a 2010 topic?
  • Outside of Washington, does an Alabama state senator really expect to generate support for an amendment to abolish gambling in the state? Although we’re talking charity bingo and betting at dog tracks, an apt phrase might be that "the horse is out of the barn" on that one
  • On the topic of gaming, what will be the fate of several of Indiana’s establishments? The Hoosier state is no doubt "all in" and individual riverboats, racinos and the like are faced with the continued slow economy, company bankruptcies and further competition on the way from Ohio (and maybe others)
  • Where will ethics reform go in the state General Assembly? Legislative leaders are talking about it and the state’s leading newspapers are advocating for it. My unofficial take: set the rules and we’ll play by them, just as we do now
  • No question to close; just a compliment. In the state’s largest newspaper, congrats to Matt Tully for his continuing series of columns exploring the challenges at Indianapolis Manual High School. You can agree or disagree with his opinions and insights, but the work put into the project and the writing is exemplary

All Ashore?

Indiana and gaming have a now 20-year-old relationship that continues to evolve. The question (long ago) was not whether there should be gaming but what form it would take. Among the latest issues is the potential transition away from riverboats in at least several instances.

The Evansville Courier-Press reports that the Casino Aztar, among other casinos, may be seeking dryer quarters as state legislators tackle the issue of gaming boats in Indiana. The paper reports:

With Indiana officials considering allowing land-based casinos, officials with Evansville’s Casino Aztar are looking at moving their business ashore.

Tom Dingman, an “attorney-in-fact” managing Aztar, said he and others have begun working on a master plan that considers moving the casino off its Ohio River riverboat and placing it inside a building. Doing so would eliminate many costs associated with running and maintaining a boat and allow Aztar to be closer to nearby restaurants, hotels and other attractions, he said.

Perhaps, most important, it would make the casino a stronger competitor against Kentucky horse tracks should they ever be allowed to have slot machines.

“It’s well known that customers have a perception of boats as second-class when they are compared to land-based casinos,” Dingman said.

Dingman said the plans don’t contain a great amount of detail. He was unsure where Casino Aztar would be if it were moved to land.

Aztar is one of 10 casinos in Indiana that state law requires to be on the water. Recently, two of them — Majestic Star I and II in Gary — have sought permission to move ashore.

Hoosier Issues in Kentucky Special Session

Indiana isn’t the only state reveling in the joys (insert your own joke here) of a special session – our neighbors to the south called back lawmakers for their own budget issue. Unlike Indiana, Kentucky is facing a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall.

While the race to finish a budget continues here, Kentucky legislators sent a revised plan to the governor on Wednesday (see story) . Several decisions being made in the Bluegrass state directly affect Hoosiers:

Legislation that would have allowed video slot machines at Kentucky horse tracks squeezed through the House, but failed in Senate committee this week (had this passed it would have meant fewer Kentuckians crossing state lines and less revenue for Indiana). This has been an ongoing debate in Kentucky, and this surely won’t be the last attempt by proponents.

Several years in the works, Kentucky finally has developed a funding plan for its share of the Ohio River Bridges Project, which would allow for two new bridges connecting the two states. (Read the 2005 BizVoice® story and the 2007 update.) Indiana plans to fund its portion of the project with Major Moves money. 

Now back to the countdown closer to home. We didn’t fare too poorly in Kentucky – we’ll see what happens here though.

Argosy Going Hollywood, Adding Jobs in Process

The Argosy in Lawrenceburg is about to get an overhaul and, unlike many business-related overhauls over the past year, this one will actually create jobs.

Cincinnati’s Business Courier explains:

When Penn National Gaming this summer opens its $326 million expansion at Lawrenceburg, it will be celebrated for the 125 contractors it employed during construction.

And the 250 new employees now being hired to operate the Hollywood-themed attraction.

And the glitzy trappings of the Vegas-scale gaming parlor, with its 300 plasma screens and 60-foot video board.

And the fancy décor, with its indoor replicas of the Hollywood Bowl, a city park and an urban streetscape.

But few will recognize the new Lawrence­burg casino for what it really is: an act of self-defense.

“This will expand our boundaries,” said Tony Rodio, general manager of the Penn National property on the Lawrenceburg riverfront, which will change its name from Argosy to Hollywood upon its opening in mid-July.

During a recent tour of the nearly finished casino, Rodio said the 270,000-square-foot expansion and its Hollywood rebranding will be part of a larger attempt by Wyomissing, Pa.-based Penn National to lay down roots in Cincinnati. Rodio wants to reclaim customers lost to two new horse-track casinos in Indianapolis and prevent encroachment by developers who have staked claims to potential casino sites from Louisville to Wilmington…

The casino will have 800 more slots, two dozen more poker tables and a VIP lounge that can host up to 110 people for dinners and private parties. Its 60-by-8-foot serpentine video screen will play movie trailers, promotional messages and memorable movie scenes on a 24-7 scrolling loop.