Michael Hochman, Senior Director of Casino Operations at Canterbury Park, provides a perspective to the Northstar board that’s long been missing. As a 25-year veteran of the gaming industry, Michael brings valuable insights into efforts to reduce the impact and incidence of problem gambling.
“I think it’s important that the board have the perspective of a gaming operator to maximize success,” says Michael, who joined the board in 2011. “Having worked in casinos for most of my adult life, I hope to contribute ideas to help identify those at risk for problem gambling.
Michael came to Minnesota in 2000 to open up the card room at Canterbury Park, the first legal poker room in the state of Minnesota. Prior to coming to Canterbury, Michael opened a poker room in Seattle and worked in Las Vegas.
Michael’s original plan was to make a living as a professional gambler, having left college in Georgia to pursue his passion in Las Vegas. However, he quickly realized that was a tall order. “Playing poker for a living is tough work,” says Michael. “I was essentially busted after two years.” Once he gave up on his initial dream, Michael talked himself into a job dealing poker at the Sahara Casino and then as a poker dealer at the Luxor.
Having essentially grown up in the industry, Michael understands the pressures faced by both players and dealers. In fact, he believes there’s a higher rate of problem gambling among those who work in the business, such as dealers, than in the general public.
Michael has found his involvement with Northstar to be an eye-opening experience. For starters, he admits to being one of the many who thought people who couldn’t stop gambling simply lacked the willpower to walk away. “I realize I was naïve to think that problem gamblers were simply bad gamblers.”
He’s also been impressed with the level of knowledge about problem gambling that exists at Northstar. “People like Roger Svendsen and Susan Campion really understand this business and have been tremendous resources.”
As Michael’s become more enlightened about gambling addiction, he’s sought to educate both his employees and customers. He helped form a problem gambling committee at Canterbury last year with the goal of raising awareness about problem gambling. “I believe we have a responsibility to the community and to our own employees to help in whatever way we can,” says Michael.
Michael envisions two types of training for casino employees. One would educate dealers about compulsive gambling and the treatment that’s available, as they are vulnerable to problem gambling themselves. A second training would ensure there’s someone on the floor at all times who could talk to a player who may have a problem – sort of a ‘first responder’ for someone who’s having a difficult time with their gambling. “I think it’s important that the responsibility of talking to problem gamblers doesn’t fall directly on the dealers as that puts them in a tough position.”
Another idea of Michael’s is to extend Northstar’s Speaker’s Network so that someone would come to speak to dealers, floor men and others in casino operations about problem gambling. He sees this as a gambling-addiction equivalent to the TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) program used in restaurants to educate servers about responsible alcohol consumption.
When he’s not a managing the Canterbury Park casino, Michael enjoys spending most of his time with his two young children, Lilly and Lucy, and his wife, Elizabeth.