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Steve Friess: Woke Casino Industry To Bud Light: Hold My Beer!

As this year’s LGBTQ+ Pride Month comes to a close, it is worthwhile to take stock of how the gambling industry has embraced LGBTQ+ people.

Boyd Gaming And LGBTQ+
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6 mins read

I have really terrible, awful news for all you right-wingers and Trumpers who so bravely and with such impressive machismo shot holes in your Bud Light cans or burned your Garth Brooks and L.A. Dodgers merchandise on TikTok.

Ditto to all the easily offended whiners who refuse to shop at Target or Kohl’s or Macy’s because they deign to display rainbow flags and other similar imagery to celebrate the queers.

You basically cannot go to any casino anymore, either. Or use anybody’s iGaming app. Sorry!

You think the beer or apparel companies are “woke,” whatever that means? You’re going to lose you frigging minds when you discover what all that coin you lose on real or virtual slots goes to support!

As this year’s LGBTQ+ Pride Month comes to a close, it is worthwhile to take stock of these things. I hate to be a killjoy (OK, I love it) but if you believe Bud Light’s promotion alliance with a transgender influencer is an anti-family, anti-God provocation, you just have no choice.

You must believe that casinos in every corner of America are hopelessly tainted. If you don’t take a stand and stop patronizing them, you’ll be a hypocrite.

Again, my condolences.

Casinos love LGBTQ+ people; deal with it

Consider:

  • MGM Resorts: The owner of 28 casinos including almost the entire Strip south Flamingo Road, has a rainbow lion icon on its Twitter this month. For more than a decade, they’ve received 100 percent ratings in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Corporate Equality Index. That is — per an MGM press release because it’s very proud of this — “the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey and report measuring corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality.” In 2017, when a trans woman at one of its places was blocked from using the restroom of her gender identity and threatened by security with expulsion, the company later apologized profusely. Every time you take in the Bellagio fountains, you’re giving aid and comfort to the evil doers.

  • Caesars Entertainment: Owners of North America’s most casinos, also boasts a Pride-themed Twitter logo and also scores 100% from the HRCF. If you object, you can no longer stop by any Harrah’s, Isle Casino or Horseshoe property, you can’t pay attention to or play in the World Series of Poker, and you definitely can’t ride the stupid Ferris wheel.  As far back as 2006, the Paris Las Vegas resort became designated as an especially LGBT-friendly spot, with bold ads featuring same-sex couples. Mon dieu!
  • Boyd Gaming: Knock another 26 casinos off your list, including fine establishments in such red states as Missouri, Mississippi and Kansas. I mean, Boyd has the full LGBTQ flag — with the trans stripes and even a few stripes I didn’t know existed — right there on its website with the declaration: “Boyd is proud to celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month.”
  • Penn Entertainment: Uh-oh. You have to stop reading Barstool, folks. Here’s a line on the website of the owners of 43 entertainment properties that is going to give the anti-woke folks the big-time sadz: “We are proud that 48% of our team members identify as female and 47% identify as minority across the entire enterprise. We also fully support our LGBTQ+ team members and guests.” I mean, why does it shove all that “virtue signaling” in your faces, ya’know?

The app companies are no better! Here’s DraftKings:

… and FanDuel:

Woke, woke, woke! Can you even stand it!

Wynn and Las Vegas Sands are on board

Oh! I saved the two most delicious ones for last: Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands. Both are the creations of extreme pro-Trump right-wing figures.

Steve Wynn, before he was disgraced amid sexual harassment and assault accusations, was the finance chair for the Republican National Committee. And yet guess where the LGBTQIA+ Community Center of Southern Nevada is holding its big annual fundraiser? Wynn!

Meanwhile, the late Sheldon Adelson, the LVS founder, was for years one of the biggest single contributors to Republican candidates and superPACs. The guy spent $15 million in 2012 because he wanted Newt Gingrich to be president, for goodness sake. And his widow, Miriam, is a huge supporter of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose every utterance contains the word “woke.”

So maybe you’ll be surprised to learn that LVS a few months ago added the aforementioned LGBTQIA+ center in Southern Nevada to the Sands Cares Accelerator, a three-year membership program aimed at advancing nonprofits to deliver greater community impact. They’re giving them $100,000 a year to advance acceptance! That has to be way more than Bud Light paid Dylan Mulvaney, right? Boycott time, amirite?

Even the biggest, baddest GOP-oriented companies in this industry love queers! And not just the white-collar, married, monogamous same-sex couple queers that are apparently more acceptable now!

My how times have changed

It wasn’t always like this, as I know from personal experience.  In 1998, I was the co-host of the national convention of what was then known as the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. (It’s since been renamed as the more inclusive NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists.)

At that time, I was bringing more than 600 journalists from the largest (and smallest) media outlets to Las Vegas. Alas, no hotel-casino would even bid for the business. Not even the Riviera, whose marquee attraction at the time was Frank Marino’s drag impersonation show.

Nobody wanted to be known as the gay place. Instead, we held the convention at the Alexis Park resort, an off-Strip non-gaming property. It was lovely, but it was hard not to be reminded that in Vegas, we were both second-class citizens and customers.

A decade later, I published “Gay Vegas,” the city’s first LGBTQ-friendly guidebook. By then, even though Nevada voters had enshrined the constitution with a ban on same-sex marriage, every major resort offered same-sex weddings in their chapels. The Luxor held a gay pool party from time to time. Some of the top nightclubs advertised in LGBTQ publications, although I recall warning gay tourists not to get too carried away on the dance floor lest they invite the ire of drunk frat boys looking to prove themselves.

Why the times have changed with gambling companies

A dramatic evolution had occurred. One reason was that there were several LGBTQ+ executives who zipped up the ranks in companies including Boyd, Caesars, MGM and Wynn. Another was that in an economic downturn following 9/11, the casinos decided to try to expand the potential customer pool by doing outreach to previously ignored groups including Blacks, gays, women and Hispanics. The economic power of these groups proved impressive and the casino industry never really looked back.

This all sucks for the haters, but they don’t think of themselves as haters. They think of themselves as people of God, people standing up for righteous America and, really suddenly, for fairness in women’s sports.

That’s their right, of course. They can have those views. But they have decided to punish corporate America for not toeing their line. They are extremely proud of the damage they’ve done to Anheuser-Busch and Target. They think they’re in the majority, that most people are angry that queer people have amassed this much power and influence. The only thing more upsetting to them than seeing someone still wearing a COVID mask is seeing someone indicate their pronouns on social media.

For that reason, they have only one choice. They must abstain from one of America’s favorite pastimes.

If they don’t, the woke will win!

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Steve Friess writes the State of Play column for PlayUSA twice a week. He's a veteran gambling-industry reporter who began covering Las Vegas in 1996 and covered the openings of resorts in Asia, Europe, and across the U.S. His bylines have appeared in The New York Times, Playboy, New Republic, Time, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, New York magazine, and many others. He, his husband, their children and three Poms live in Ann Arbor.

View all posts by Steve Friess

Steve Friess writes the State of Play column for PlayUSA twice a week. He's a veteran gambling-industry reporter who began covering Las Vegas in 1996 and covered the openings of resorts in Asia, Europe, and across the U.S. His bylines have appeared in The New York Times, Playboy, New Republic, Time, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, New York magazine, and many others. He, his husband, their children and three Poms live in Ann Arbor.

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