Eric Schippers has been with Penn Entertainment for 20 years. He joined the company when there were only six properties. How does he manage a portfolio of 43 venues?
Penn Entertainment’s commitment to giving back to the community is not new. Eric Schippers, senior vice president of Public Affairs at Penn Entertainment, says that the company’s efforts date back to its founding in 1972. What will be different in 2023 compared to now?
He says, “We have grown exponentially from a small family-owned racing business to the largest regional gaming company in the country.” Since Schippers’ arrival, Penn Entertainment expanded from six to 43 properties in multiple states.
The scope and scale for corporate social responsibility (CSR), and their potential impact, are much larger. Schippers is responsible for creating the framework and foundation that will embed CSR into the culture of the company.
A big moment for Penn CSR efforts
Penn Entertainment, in anticipation of the turmoil and upheaval that will be 2020, has established its first Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Committee. The committee reports directly to the president and CEO Jay Snowden.
Snowden, the long-serving Chief Operating Officer of the operator took on the role of CEO at the beginning January 2020. Schippers said the ESG Committee “reflects what he has brought to the company”.
Penn, acting on the committee’s initiatives, introduced policies, procedures, and transparency in areas such as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as well as efforts for veterans and first responders to be supported and rewarded.
Schippers: “We want our team members, investors, and community partners to know that this isn’t just fluff.” This is something that we are very passionate about, from our top management down to our corporate employees.
An ESG initiative for the entire company
Penn Entertainment’s CSR Report for 2022 highlights the level of engagement in the company. The report details donations totaling more than $7,6m and over 8,000 volunteer hours. Schippers explains that “we’re putting in the effort to give back and help others.”
Penn’s staff even cleaned up the local waterfront at its head office. By 2022, ESG measures will be used to determine long-term executive incentive compensation.
Penn Entertainment is working to reduce its environmental impact at all of their casinos.
Some properties are built to LEED standards, others repurpose existing buildings. Hollywood Casino York, in Pennsylvania, is housed in an old Sears department shop.
Schippers describes a number of initiatives that can be taken to reduce the carbon footprints of properties. The properties are using LED lighting, and they’re working on phasing out single-use disposable plastics. Plastic player cards are being replaced with cashless technology.
Many of these efforts are made possible by individual employees who shape company-wide efforts.
We’ve assigned someone to each of our 43 locations to start thinking about new initiatives and what else we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. We’re seeing our properties come up with ideas like reducing the number of buffets and using beef alternatives.
Penn Entertainment is a champion of the community
Schippers says that Penn Entertainment’s efforts to reduce environmental impact of its casinos reflect their status in the local communities they serve.
“We are large economic development organizations that generate revenue in these communities. We consider ourselves to be a cornerstone.
We’re a local business. The people who work for our company are well-known in their own communities. So we want to help them.”
It supports hospitals and programmes that bring in new businesses, ultimately extending Penn’s influence beyond new jobs and visitors. He adds, “We want more businesses to ensure that we do not become an island.”
Opportunities for a diverse range of candidates
Penn wants to make sure that individuals in their community can advance within the organization. The US gaming industry faces both an opportunity and a challenging situation.
The American Gaming Association has noted that the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts of gambling are having a positive impact.
The AGA said earlier this year that <a href="https://www.americangaming.org/resources/diversity-in-the-gaming-workforce/%23:~:text=The%2520gaming%2520industry%2520workforce%2520is,of%2520the%2520total%2520U.S.%2520workforce. The gaming industry's leadership pipeline has a "significantly greater diversity" than the average national workforce. Minority employees make up 45% first- to midlevel management within the industry.
The gender balance in the top echelons of government is low. AGA, as an example, claims that representation “drops” at the highest levels. Schippers said Penn is trying to change this.
It requires that candidates with diverse backgrounds be considered for executive positions through an initiative called Penn Way. He explains that “we want our team to reflect the communities in which we operate, and this is a great way to achieve it.”
Penn wants to open up new paths for potential employees and their family members, he said.
The next generation of Penn executives: a look inward
There is a 1m USD annual Diversity Scholarship available to employees’ children who wish to pursue higher education. The scheme has already benefited 47 students in 2022.
Schippers said, “It’s a big difference.” Not only for the children, but the entire property is proud to support them. They are often first-generation college students, and become leaders at Penn as well as in their communities.
Leadership Excellence at Penn’s (LEAP) program expands efforts to include other departments. The scheme rotates graduating seniors through different departments of the company. The scheme allows graduating seniors to rotate through different departments and roles, which is a great way to identify potential intern candidates and future hires.
Working with HBCUs
Penn’s DEI extends to university students. It offers a STEM scholarship program with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Penn will donate more than $4m in five years for scholarships to students at participating universities.
Schippers says, “Our programmes can only be as good as our efforts. So, across the country, we are putting all our energy into creating a diverse workplace, supporting diversity and supporting the children and grandchildren of our team. We also nurture and empower candidates.”
Schippers explains that this commitment to diversity also extends to Penn’s vendors. It aims to increase spending on minority- and women-owned businesses. Mentorship is provided to help these companies grow.
Supporting veterans with Penn Heroes
Penn Heroes is the operator’s programme that extends support to veterans, military personnel and first responders. The loyalty program offers additional benefits, including discounts on dining, shopping and hotels at Penn Entertainment properties.
Schippers claims that CEO Snowden is “very passionate” about this issue. It’s his personal passion. We know many people who serve overseas, and we not only honour those team members, veterans or first responders.
Penn Heroes has been signed up by more than 182,000 users. The operator supports local veteran’s organisations and has established a scholarship for military students at Penn State Berks near its headquarters.
Schippers says, “We cover all bases to support our heroes.”
After the publication of 2022 CSR Report, Penn CEO Snowden expressed his pride in the company’s achievements. Snowden praised the company’s “significant progress” to ensure a positive impact for the entire year.
Schippers says the same thing as his CEO, “We are very happy with the progress that we have made so far.” He adds that plans are underway to expand the environmental efforts of the company beyond its property boundaries.
He says, “This year we completed our first-ever scope one and second greenhouse gas assessments.” “We are looking to expand our scope three assessment to include the fuel used by airplanes that fly to our properties.”
Penn has a good start if ESG wants businesses to do more to make a positive difference.