Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 8, 2015)
Here are some of the reasons why Great Blue Heron Charity Casino was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2016):
- Great Blue Heron Charity Casino supports employees who are new moms with maternity leave top-up payments (to 95% of salary for up to 17 weeks) and offers a generous subsidy for IVF when needed (up to $15,000)
- Great Blue Heron Charity Casino encourages ongoing employee development through tuition subsidies for job-related courses (to $1,500) and subsidies for professional accreditation
- Employees working at Great Blue Heron Charity Casino enjoy a busy social calendar with company-organized events throughout the year, including an annual children's holiday party, an annual staff appreciation barbecue and recognition events for long serving employees
It's no gamble working at Great Blue Heron Casino
After 17 years at the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino, Phuong "Paul" Luu knew he worked with a great group of people. But it was only when his youngest child became seriously ill that he realized how great.
In 2014, his son Patrick, 13, contracted Ewing's Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, and underwent gruelling rounds of chemotherapy. "It was a very difficult time for my family and me," says Luu.
Basic medical expenses were already covered by OHIP, of course, while the company's benefits plan fully paid for the expensive drugs involved. But his colleagues at the casino, located just outside Port Perry, Ont., knew there are many other costs at a time of crisis.
A special barbecue for the casino's 1,000-plus full and part-time staff was quickly arranged to assist the family, yielding $9,000. The casino matched that, and its owners, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, made an additional contribution. In all, Luu received some $20,000.
Today, after treatment at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, Patrick is doing fine. "I will forever be grateful for everyone's hard work and generosity," says Luu.
The Vietnamese immigrant joined the casino as an Inspector when it opened in 1997 and has risen to the role of Pit Manager. "We have a very strong team," he says. "We work together like a family."
Arnold Block, CEO and General Manager, says that like Luu, many employees have been with the casino for a long time, often since the beginning. The casino inspires that loyalty by doing whatever it can to help employees, both formally and informally, from mentoring, training and recognition programs to assistance in a crisis, he says.
"We understand that there is a direct link between employee happiness and customer satisfaction," says Block. "It is almost impossible to achieve one without the other. We take this to heart and have made it a main principle of our business philosophy."
Groundskeeper Alana Cawker, a local employee who started in security in 2000, is a good example of that philosophy. She enjoys the family-like environment and meeting customers. "Because I'm outside, I get to meet a lot of patrons and chat with them," she says. "I actually have patrons sending me Christmas cards because I've become close with them. They always say people are so friendly here."
Block notes that Great Blue Heron is one of the largest employers in Durham Region, with a full-service staff of dealers, slot attendants, cashiers, technicians, food and beverage workers, maintenance personnel, security officers, customer relations hosts, administrators and others. "A lot of people are attracted by the excitement of the industry," he says. "They enjoy the interaction with customers and the atmosphere of entertainment."
Owned by the First Nation, the casino is managed by the Great Blue Heron Gaming Company, a partnership comprising Vienna-based Casinos Austria International, the Steiner Group and Sonco Gaming. Up to 10 per cent of staff are Aboriginal, and many employees are hired from the local area.
Income from the gaming tables flows to the First Nation's charitable foundation, much of which is distributed back into the surrounding community, while slot machine proceeds go to the province's Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. The casino itself also raises charity funds - and employee pride - through an annual golf tournament, which has given $2.2 million back to the community since 1997.
Block says that along with strong compensation and benefits, a commitment to a safe workplace and intensive training programs, another attraction of employment with Casinos Austria is the potential to work elsewhere. The company runs casinos on seven U.S.- based cruise ships and has gaming operations in 15 countries. "Some of our people have taken contracts in other countries and were thrilled to have had an opportunity to see the world," says Block.
This article appeared in the magazine announcing this year's Greater Toronto's Top Employers winners, published December 8, 2015 in The Globe and Mail. This article was prepared with the financial support of the employer, which did not write or edit its contents.