The Gaming Life: Larry Flynn

For the better part of the last decade, Larry Flynn has served as the senior vice president of gaming for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG). It’s a big job that includes overseeing 22 gaming sites, two warehouses and some 6,500 employees—not to mention a mandate to establish new business and foster organizational and leadership capabilities within his management teams. In all, the properties he administers represent approximately $3.6 billion in gaming revenue. From that sum, more than $1.1 billion comes back to the province as profit.

Flynn is a motivator and change champion who plays a major role in fulfilling OLG’s broader vision and ensuring that the corporation delivers on its commitment to customer service excellence. Flynn recently took some of his limited free time to speak with The Gaming Life.

Flynn was first asked to join OLG by a former board chair and then-CEO, coming on board as senior vice president of gaming marketing. In that role, it was his responsibility to create and implement gaming marketing strategies for OLG’s slots at racetracks and the charity casinos. His performance led him, in 2004, to his current position as a member of OLG’s senior management team. Flynn says the intrigue and challenge of gaming appealed to him, as it was a new industry for the province. “I thought I could add value based on my experience working in the public sector,” he said.

Prior to joining OLG, Flynn held senior roles at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) for more than 25 years, moving up from regional administrator to, ultimately, regional director for central Ontario. But the role he remembers with the greatest fondness was his stint as wine consultant. It’s a passion he still indulges. “I absolutely love wine and enjoy experimenting with new varietals,” he noted. (His expert recommendation to CEM readers is exactly what one would expect from a lifelong champion of his province: “I have a very soft spot for Ontario VQA wines.”)

Flynn emphasizes the importance of customer service at OLG because he’s seen what a positive difference it can make, no matter the industry or situation. He says the key to success is employing customer-driven strategies and an excellence-in-service philosophy.

That’s the strength of OLG, Flynn said, and what will maintain and grow the OLG customer base. “The gaming industry must remain current, and we must consider our customer needs first,” he said.

This is true of networked gaming as well, of which Flynn noted, “If that is what our customers want, then we need to deliver on that promise to them.”

In addition to delivering on the service promise, Flynn said challenges come in many forms. “It could be global in nature, like the recent recession and the impact it had on our ability to meet our numbers, or it could be local in the sense of keeping properties fresh in such a way that makes them deliver against our customers’ expectations,” he explained. “Each requires creative solutions which, when successfully delivered, create job satisfaction for me.”

So, of all the casino games Flynn oversees, does he have a favorite to play? Not really, he said, although he does prefer “real” games over video. In fact, Flynn’s favorite pastime is outside of the casino: golf. While he enjoys getting in a game whenever he can, he added, “Someday I hope to learn how to play it!”

Back to business, Flynn relishes a chance to get out and see, in person, how properties across Canada compare up close to what he’s doing at OLG. “I enjoy visiting casinos. It is exciting to see how others are doing in terms of floor layout, ambiance, renovations, property refresh and delivering on the customer service promise we all make,” he noted.

Flynn recently visited the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond, B.C. Of the property, he said: “It had a special ambiance about it. Rooms were very comfortable and inviting. The floor layout made for an easy flow and the service was attentive to the customers.”

A favorite of Flynn’s is the M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas: “Far enough south off the Strip to make it local, but classy enough to make it worth the drive.”

But there is always a good reason to come home. “During a visit to our Woodbine site, I was wandering about the gaming floor at 7 a.m.—something I love to do, as it really gives me my rush,” he said. “Anyway, a lady playing the Blazing Sevens machine yells at me on the way by and, while still playing the machine, begins to complain that although she has been playing for hours she ‘hasn’t won a thing.’ No sooner had the words come out of her mouth, she hits the Blazing Sevens. As she stares at me in amazement, I ask her, ‘Is there anything else I can help you with ma’am?’ and turn and walk away smiling. Sometimes the RNG hits at an opportune time.”

So if Flynn had said no to the OLG invite, what might he be doing now? “I would love to be a motivational speaker on customer service,” he said.

Customer service. Of course.

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