CEO Club Briefing

Profoundly Ordinary

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College’s Chief Executives’ Club of Boston 

February 14, 2012


So how can it be that this business gives rise to such hyperbolic commentary? And why is it, in such a sophisticated community where we constantly look to best practice in medicine, in law, in all forms of enterprise, to the experiences of other places in the world, why is it the case that here we are so concerned about something that has become so profoundly ordinary elsewhere?

Let’s take a couple of examples. The Singaporeans. The two largest and most profitable casinos in the world operate in Singapore. They opened in 2009. They were undertaken by the Singaporean government to stimulate tourism, to lead to capital development, and reverse declining tourism and GDP growth. Since that time, there is now $7 billion of annual gaming activity in the small country state of Singapore. Tourism is up 35 percent with 13 million visitors last year, GDP grew 14.5 percent—the year after, before the casinos, it had fallen by eight-tenths of one percent. This is the same country that bans the importation of chewing gum. So apparently, these two things have been able to coextist rather peacefully in Singapore.

Let’s take another place considered to be the source of constant moral decline: Iowa. Recently, there were caucuses in Iowa—they were very widely reported on by the press, and I don’t think at any point, at least in my observation of the coverage, anyone suggested that Iowa was in the midst of some inexorable moral decay—despite the fact that gaming was legalized in Iowa as the first of the Midwestern states to do so in 1989. In a population of three million residents, there are 17 casinos, 20,000 gaming positions in the state, one for every 93 adults.