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Winners, Losers & ‘Crisitunity’

To find opportunity in this economic and health crisis, think like the Great Gretzky.

Winners, Losers & ‘Crisitunity’

Legend has it . . .

… that Isaac Newton, while he nodded, clearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping. Of an apple. Of an apple that broke from its stem. Of an apple that broke from its stem and hit him on the head, knocking into his noggin the notion of gravity.

Cute.

Happens to be total BS, but cute nonetheless.

Legend has it…

…that Walt Disney, whose eponymous company created Frozen with a capital F, is himself “frozen” with a lowercase F—as in locked away in some cryogenic lab, perhaps next to the disembodied head of Red Sox slugger Ted Williams.

Well, OK, the second part of that is true.

And speaking of dead baseball players, legend has it…

…that Babe Ruth was calling his shot that day in the 1932 World Series, when he pointed to centerfield and sent a homer to the same spot, helping the Yankees win it all. No, no, Nanette, if the Bambino was pointing at anything, it wasn’t the flagpole beyond the centerfield fence at Wrigley Field. He was more likely calling out some loudmouth in the Chicago Cubs dugout or catcalling some woman in the grandstand.

But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?

Likewise, there’s an etymological tall tale that everyone from John F. Kennedy to Homer J. Simpson have taken as gospel: that the Chinese use the same word for crisis that they do for opportunity:

“Crisitunity!”

Sorry, Homer, but that portmanteau is based more on fable than on fact.

Doh!

But so what? “Crisitunity” may lack literal accuracy, but can you find a better metaphor for our industry today? With all but a few of the world’s casinos closed, and the ones that are opening getting sparse play, it’s easy—and perhaps human nature—to focus on the danger. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe your friend or a family member did. Maybe your property won’t reopen until July. Maybe when it does, business levels will trigger increased decreases in staffing.

The dangers are easy to see.

The opportunities? Now they’re tricky. Because there aren’t that many of them and they tend to be camouflaged if not outright disguised.

But a trained eye and a disciplined mind can spot them. Here’s how:

Whenever there’s a seismic shift in the status quo, you need to think of who stands to prosper and who stands to suffer. Winners and losers, it’s as simple as that. Right now, look no further than your TV screen. Movie theaters—save for drive-ins, which are experiencing a mini-renaissance—are getting smacked around like a piñata on bat day.

But who’s the winner? Cable, satellite, streaming services like Netflix and Vudu.

Loser: Televised sports. For the love of all that’s holy and righteous, ESPN last weekend aired the “stone-skimming” championship, which, amazingly, is exactly what you think it is, a bunch of grown men throwing flat rocks sidearm-style and tallying the times it skims atop . . . you know what? This is too boring to keep talking about.

Winner: Televised news. Everyone is entrapped and enthralled; it’s like a hurricane that lasts three months and it’s the only thing the talking heads are talking about.

Loser: Fancy schmancy restaurants.

Winner: Uber Eats.

Now do this for our world, and this industry. Who’s going to win and who’s going to lose? Conventional wisdom says the biggest winner coming out of this Covid coma is electronic table games. No cards to handle. No chips to handle. No dealer to breathe onto.

And the biggest loser? Well, most people seem to think it’s poker. Because you can play blackjack with three or four players (everyone is one on one vs. the dealer), but poker lives on liquidity and action; cutting more than half the people from the game kills the spirit of the game. Maybe casinos will adopt spin-and-go tournaments, which are dealt three-handed online. Maybe they’ll think of something else. Or maybe players will adapt.

But if not, poker may reverse all its gains since 2003 or simply migrate online.

You must challenge yourself to think along these lines, and not get caught in the muck of self-misery and group commiseration. Leave that for the lemmings. Go against the grain and the crowd, and figure out where this will all end up.

It’s like Wayne Gretzky said about hockey —and in this case, there’s a 99 percent chance he actually said it: “I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been.”

In other words, anyone can see what’s happened. Great leaders see what’s about to happen, and capitalize on it before the competition does.

Great advice for all of us.

Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Light & Wonder. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Light & Wonder or its affiliates.

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