The Evolutionization of Gaming & Entertainment in Sri Lanka – Clifford Casinader

The CEO of Bellagio Limited, Clifford Casinader began his 34-year long career in the Gaming and Entertainment industry as an entry level employee. Clifford’s keen interest in developing the industry and knack for pre-opening entertainment establishments earned him the notice of the upper management as well as managerial positions. He joined his current organization, Bellagio Limited as a Manager in 1998 and was quickly appointed as the General Manager. 

“I’ve been quite passionate about streamlining industry processes and grooming staff. I’ve been very fortunate to have a brilliant boss and a very supportive management team. With their support and guidance, I was able to transform the country’s Gaming industry into a high-end service-oriented offering in the nightlife and entertainment space. As a result, Bellagio Limited was the first to curate customizable, experiential packages, which include a tourism component; allowing gaming aficionados to enjoy a well-rounded holiday experience in Sri Lanka while creating opportunities for the local Tourism industry to tap into a new customer segment.”

In 2013, Clifford became the Chief Executive Officer of Bellagio Limited and was also appointed to the Board of Directors of Bellagio Limited and Bally’s Limited. As CEO, he spearheaded the company’s successful establishment of online gaming, another first and key growth sector for the Gaming industry in Sri Lanka. Together with the management, he is keen to push the boundaries further and take the industry to the next level.

Clifford described his leadership style as having evolved over the course of the years. “I would say that I am a tough, but fair leader. The Gaming and Entertainment industry is a fast-paced and challenging environment, so as a leader my objective is to lead by example, and ensure that my team is driven to reach our collective goals as an organization. Lastly, I would say that I try to be a leader with empathy, especially towards the junior staff, since I too developed my career at the entry-level and I know firsthand that if groomed well and given the opportunity, driven young employees have the potential to contribute and succeed in the workplace.” 

Speaking of the key elements of team building, Clifford explained, “Identifying the strengths of your team and placing them in roles where they can bring out these strengths effectively is a key factor in team building. I strongly believe in the power of training and grooming your team with discipline to achieve results, and this is something I have focused on throughout my career. Communication is crucial to a team, it allows us to solve problems effectively and be on the same page, thereby reaching our goals efficiently and effectively. I would also add that innovation drives any industry forward and for this to happen, teams need a supportive space to brainstorm new ideas, think creatively and collaborate with each other to move the dial forward.”

Expressing his opinion on the most effective way of drawing young blood to the Entertainment industry, Clifford said, “The Gaming and Entertainment industry is challenging and vibrant. In order to attract young blood to the industry we provide excellent training in hospitality, along with good remuneration and employee benefits. We take pride in having diverse teams where we can all learn from each other and grow professionally. In addition to this, employees also gain exposure via working with international clients and have the opportunity to travel internationally. Since Sri Lanka is looking to develop through tourism, gaming and entertainment is an essential part of the plan. With integrated resorts earmarked in Sri Lanka (through projects like the port city) to boost the tourism and economy of the country, it also provides an excellent opportunity to grow a career in the Hospitality industry, which is one of the most lucrative industries in the world.”

As an experienced mentor, Clifford expressed his opinion on the fundamental aspects of a business strategy in the Hospitality industry. “The Hospitality industry consists of various offerings related to optional and recreational services provided to clients for their leisure. Not only does it include accommodation, such as hotels, but it also includes businesses like entertainment establishments, resorts, events, cruise lines and transportation. Being such a competitive industry, a strong business strategy is crucial to the success of an organization. 

From the gaming and entertainment perspective, it is vital to build and grow your brand in such a way that it ensures a continued relationship with your client base. Our success is based on the customer value we provide as a brand and the strength of our relationship with our clients, who make the choice of selecting us for their leisure activities. Secondly, in line with this, we need to have a strong track record of operational excellence. To put it simply, we need to walk the talk because a strong brand cannot stand on its own without excellent execution. Finally, in an industry like ours, which is a vital component of tourism and hospitality, it is important to have the infrastructure and regulatory support to grow the industry, and further contribute to the economy. With this support, we can then take the next step and grow the industry to the same level as international resort projects, thereby making Sri Lanka a top pick for tourism and leisure.” 

Sharing his view on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on business, Clifford said, “As our industry is intertwined with tourism, COVID-19 certainly had a negative impact with the airports being closed and necessary restrictions placed by the government in order to ensure health and safety. While this has of course taken a toll on business, we have adapted and now use digital means of connecting with our clients. We were able to strengthen the platforms that were already in place before the pandemic, which allowed us to transition more easily into the new normal. 

With regard to the post COVID era, we have relooked at our operations and plan to implement more efficient management of resources, while training our staff to provide better and more personalized services to our clients. In terms of marketing and innovation, we hope to provide attractive packages to clients, while showcasing Sri Lanka as a safe travel destination for their entertainment and leisure needs”, responded Clifford, when questioned about the impact of COVID-19 upon the Entertainment industry and how he foresaw the industry re-setting itself in the post  pandemic era. 

On the topic of the best means by which the Entertainment and Hospitality sectors can cater to the ever-changing trends in order to ensure customer satisfaction, the CEO stated, “The Entertainment industry is well recognized globally to attract tourism. The next level for this industry in Sri Lanka is to strengthen the infrastructure required, particularly in terms of the creation of integrated lifestyle developments similar to those in the region like Singapore and Macau. Japan too, will debut their own integrated resort development plan in 2024. These projects could generate substantial revenue to Sri Lanka’s economy and increase its appeal in the global tourism market. For a country that is heavily dependent on tourism like ours, this infrastructure and development are crucial to attract tourists who have a myriad of options available to them. Sri Lanka is blessed with a significant amount of natural beauty, which we are known for globally, and if we can pair this together with elevating our hospitality and service offering in terms of events, dining, shopping and nightlife, we can create a truly strong tourism brand for the country.” 

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