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Effective onboarding to improve employee retentionĀ 

09.07.22

Read this if you are looking to improve retention at your organization. 

Does your organization have a well-thought-out, up-to-date, and effective onboarding program for new hires? If you don’t, it may be time to start. According to research from Brandon Hall Group, organizations with a strong onboarding process: improve retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. In addition, the report also noted that 93% of employers indicated a positive employee onboarding process was a key driver of retention.   

Why is onboarding a driver of retention? 

Research shows that an employee’s desire to stay with a company—or second guess their decision—starts minute one of their first day of employment. Employees who virtually or literally walk into an environment that has a detailed and supportive onboarding plan begin to feel a sense of belonging and dedication to the organization and are ready to make a difference.  

A successful onboarding strategy prioritizes employee engagement and supports the individual’s learning and development. Generally, an onboarding plan should be in alignment with the strategic planning efforts of the organization—and demonstrate a coordinated effort with a training and development committee to ensure relevance and accountability.  

A tactical approach to provide greater access and enhance training efforts is to create a knowledge management system where documentation, forms, and templates are readily available. In an era of information overload, highlighting and organizing the most relevant resources helps employees make timely and informed decisions. 

Organizations that prioritize the employee experience through onboarding and knowledge management empower and ultimately retain employees.  

Employers focused on retention and effective onboarding should also consider: 

  • Employee journey mapping
    Conduct a detailed review of the employee experience, from recruitment through offboarding, to identify barriers and processes that limit progress or cause challenges. 
  • Training and development assessment
    Determine education needs of current and new employees through formal and informal review, such as surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations. 
  • Strategic planning
    After reviewing current skill sets, compare them with your organization’s strategic plan and vision to identify gaps in knowledge and skills that will prevent you from achieving your goals.
  • Training and development committee
    Bring together a dedicated committee of employees, including an executive sponsor, to identify and deploy training content.  
  • Develop knowledge management system
    Compile and organize your most relevant and helpful resources, training, and templates in a way that is easy to find and access. Track visitation and usage overtime. 

BerryDunn’s team of consultants are happy to assist you with evaluating your process and provide recommendations for improvements to your employee onboarding.

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BerryDunn experts and consultants

On the first episode of the Let’s Talk Parks with BerryDunn podcast, we spoke with Shane Mize, the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Pflugerville, Texas, and members of the BerryDunn Parks, Recreation, Libraries team about innovative ways to plan, engage, and serve their communities.

For those not familiar with Pflugerville, the city is situated between Austin and Round Rock, Texas. It has been listed as one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. They have a population of roughly 80,000 and their parks and recreation system is made up of over 55 miles of trails, with over 900,000 visits to their park system annually.

On the podcast, Shane talks about the challenges and opportunities of being surrounded by cities that have great parks and recreation departments. Never one to be upstaged, Shane uses innovation in his program, to increase community engagement and ensure the highest level of service to Pflugerville. The end goal: Being the best parks and recreation department in the country.

So let’s take a look at five innovative things the department is doing:

1. Rethinking the master plan

Shane told us that he's not a huge fan of how typical master plans are done. When he realized that he needed one to qualify for grants, he agreed, but on his own terms.

Shane shared his experience in seeking a consulting firm to help with the process, “I just decided that we were going to do things differently and was fortunate to find a firm [in BerryDunn] that … had enough park and rec professionals on it …and was young enough in some of their philosophies.”

He continued, “I think I was in the right place at the right time to push my agenda, which was to have a master plan that looked 100% different than any of the master plans I'd ever seen, and to feel confident and comfortable, not only standing before council, but standing before anybody in my industry.”

BerryDunn’s Jason Genck, the project manager on the master plan project, said, “They expect a high level of service, and they want us to push the envelope quite a bit, and I'm particularly excited about this project because I tend to be attracted to projects that are really creative, certainly innovative, and pushing the envelope.”

When starting the process, Shane told Jason that he wanted the plan to be “the most creative and engaged master planning process the country has ever seen.” Jason and his team completely agreed with this philosophy for Pflugerville and could see applications for other cities and towns.

Jason said, “I think this planning process is disrupting the traditional way of planning because the entire project team is constantly adjusting and re-thinking approaches to maximize the benefits to the Pflugerville community. Yes, we have our standard practices, but, we are having a lot of fun while being inspired to really push innovation in everything we do. While the Pflugerville team and the consultant team are true partners and everyone has such great expertise, we are also learning together how to help create the most vibrant future possible for the community.”

2. Going beyond benchmarking

Shane’s vision for the plan included local feedback as well as feedback from around the country. Jason Genck explained how this is different from what is typically done, “It's not just doing benchmarking, for example. Benchmarking is very common in a planning process, to look at how one organization might be performing against other, similar size, similar scoped organizations—and of course, we do that, and it's always an interesting discussion to reflect on what that is—but in the case of Pflugerville, that wasn't enough.”

“It was, 'Hey, let's take that benchmarking, let's get a think tank together. And you know what? We don't want a think tank of just local leaders. We’d also like you to do a think tank of regional and state leaders. Oh, and by the way, let's actually do a think tank of the best minds of the nation.' And that's just one example of many instances throughout the team's planning processes that are really just taking the traditional services that you might expect to another level.”

3. Constantly evaluating satisfaction

As the team started the master planning process, at the top of the list was getting feedback from the community, which was nothing new to the Pflugerville team. Proactively seeking customer satisfaction is something they do regularly. Another creative example:

Shane shared, “I actually have a staff member that pulls Yelp, Google, and Wedding Wire [reviews] for our wedding event site, and they pull those numbers quarterly and we can see if we've dipped up or down in every single park in the last quarter and any new comments are captured.”

4. Bringing in celebrity voices

This one is for all the fans of the TV show Parks and Recreation. As a way to gain visibility for the master planning process and to get the attention of their constituents, the Pflugerville team had a creative idea. Using the social tool Cameo, they hired actor Jay Jackson, who played character Perd Hapley on the show, for a brief “in character” video message (which you can see on Pflugerville’s Facebook page here). Here’s the message:

Perd: And hello there everyone. Jay Jackson here, aka Perd Hapley. And welcome to, 'You Heard with Perd!' We have some breaking news right now. And that news that is breaking is this: Right now, Pflugerville wants to hear from you as they develop a 10-year parks and recreation master plan. Your participation is very important, so go to pflugervilletx.gov/parksplan to learn more about it. And now that you heard, get involved. I'm Perd Hapley.

The video was widely shared and gained nearly 10,000 views—getting the master planning message out to potentially new audience members.

5. Meeting people where they are – on the road or online

On the podcast, BerryDunn’s Jason Genck described one of his favorite outreach vehicles (literally) that Pflugerville is using to engage citizens all over the city. “Let's pull a 15-foot-wide chalkboard all over the community, which has logged over 120 miles to date, to get into every nook and cranny in the community to make sure everyone knows what's going on with the future parks and recreation and has the opportunity to provide input.” Community members were encouraged to finish the sentence, “Parks matter because…” on the mobile chalkboard as a way to gather feedback on what was important to park users.

The chalkboard is just one way that the team is gathering feedback. Their website has a master planning section, linked to an engagement platform hosted by BerryDunn, where community members can provide ideas and vote for ideas from others. Meeting constituents where they are is helping make this project one of the most engaged planning processes the BerryDunn team has seen.

What’s next? Robots?

Well, maybe! The Pflugerville team has been looking at robots for lining their sports fields, so it can save their staff time and their employees can get back to doing what they do best. Nothing is off the table!

Shane explained that to be successful at innovation, you have to take some risks. He said, “If you're waiting until it's somewhat successful in the public sector, you've missed the mark of innovation. You've missed the mark of doing anything new.”

Listen to the full podcast here:

Article
How Pflugerville and BerryDunn are pushing the envelope on parks and recreation innovation

Read this if your organization receives charitable donations.

As the holiday season has passed and tax season is now upon us, we have our own list of considerations that we would like to share—so that you don’t end up on the IRS’ naughty list!

Donor acknowledgment letters

It is important for organizations receiving gifts to consider the following guidelines, as doing some work now may save you time (and maybe a fine or two) later.

Charitable (i.e., 501(c)(3)) organizations are required to provide a contemporaneous (i.e., timely) donor acknowledgment letter to all donors who contribute $250 or more to the organization, whether it be cash or non-cash items (e.g., publicly traded securities, real estate, artwork, vehicles, etc.) received. The letter should include the following:

  • Name of the organization
  • Amount of cash contribution
  • Description of non-cash items (but not the value)
  • Statement that no goods and services were provided (assuming this is the case)
  • Description and good faith estimate of the value of goods and services provided by the organization in return for the contribution

Additionally, when a donor makes a payment greater than $75 to a charitable organization partly as a contribution and partly as a payment for goods and services, a disclosure statement is required to notify the donor of the value of the goods and services received in order for the donor to determine the charitable contribution component of their payment.

If a charitable organization receives noncash donations, it may be asked to sign Form 8283. This form is required to be filed by the donor and included with their personal income tax return. If a donor contributes noncash property (excluding publicly traded securities) valued at over $5,000, the organization will need to sign Form 8283, Section B, Part IV acknowledging receipt of the noncash item(s) received.

For noncash items such as cars, boats, and even airplanes that are donated there is a separate Form 1098-C, Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats, and Airplanes, which the donee organization must file. A copy of the Form 1098-C is provided to the donor and acts as acknowledgment of the gift. For more information, you can read our article on donor acknowledgments.

Gifts to employees

At the same time, many employers find themselves in a giving spirit, wishing to reward the employees for another year of hard work. While this generosity is well-intended, gifts to employees can be fraught with potential tax consequences organizations should be aware of. Here’s what you need to know about the rules on employee gifts.

First and foremost, the IRS is very clear that cash and cash equivalents (specifically gift cards) are always included as taxable income when provided by the employer, regardless of amount, with no exceptions. This means that if you plan to give your employees cash or a gift card this year, the value must be included in the employees’ wages and is subject to all payroll taxes.

There are, however, a few ways to make nontaxable gifts to employees. IRS Publication 15 offers a variety of examples of de minimis (minimal) benefits, defined as any property or service you provide to an employee that has a minimal value, making the accounting for it unreasonable and administratively impracticable. Examples include holiday or birthday gifts, like flowers, or a fruit basket, or occasional tickets for theater or sporting events.

Additionally, holiday gifts can also be nontaxable if they are in the form of a gift coupon and if given for a specific item (with no redeemable cash value). A common example would be issuing a coupon to your employee for a free ham or turkey redeemable at the local grocery store. For more information, please see our article on employee gifts.

Other year-end filing requirements

As the end of the calendar year approaches, it is also important to start thinking about Form 1099 filing requirements. There are various 1099 forms; 1099-INT to report interest income, 1099-DIV to report dividend income, 1099-NEC to report nonemployee compensation, and 1099-MISC to report other miscellaneous income, to name a few.

Form 1099-NEC reports non-employment income which is not included on a W-2. Organizations must issue 1099-NECs to payees (there are some exclusions) who receive at least $600 in non-employment income during the calendar year. A non-employee may be an independent contractor, or a person hired on a contract basis to complete work, such as a graphic designer. Payments to attorneys or CPAs for services rendered that exceed $600 for the tax year must be reported on a Form 1099-NEC. However, a 1099-MISC would be sent to an Attorney for payments of settlements. For additional questions on which 1099 form to use please contact your tax advisor.

While federal income tax is not always required to be withheld, there are some instances when it is. If a payee does not furnish their Tax Identification Number (TIN) to the organization, then the organization is required to withhold taxes on payments reported in box 1 of Form 1099-NEC. There are other instances, and the rates can differ so if you have questions, please reach out to your tax advisor. 1099 forms are due to the recipient and the IRS by January 31st.

Whether organizations are receiving gifts, giving employee gifts, or thinking about acknowledgments and other reporting we hope that by making our list and checking it twice we can save you some time to spend with your loved ones this holiday season. We wish you all a very happy and healthy holiday season!

Article
Making a year-end list and checking it twice

Read this if you are a not-for-profit executive, CFO, or audit professional.

You may have heard—or tried not to—a lot about the new Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL) accounting standard1 that has consumed much of the banking industry for the past few years. While the impact to banks has snagged most of the headlines, webinars, and conference sessions, the new accounting standard applies to a broad range of financial instruments, meaning it affects a lot of companies and organizations outside the banking industry. Assessing your readiness is critical, as the standard goes into effect for all remaining organizations in 2023. 

Does CECL affect your organization? 

The first step is determining if you have any in-scope financial instruments; ASU 326-20-15-2 is the section of the new standard that identifies these assets. Please do consult the standard directly but, to briefly explain, it applies to financial assets measured at amortized cost basis, including financing receivables, held-to-maturity debt securities, trade and other receivables, net investments in leases recognized by lessors, and off-balance-sheet credit exposures for loans, letters of credit, and financial guarantees not accounted for as insurance. If your organization has any of these financial assets – receivables and leases are likely the major categories for non-banks – then you will need to ensure you comply with the requirements of the new standard. 

What’s different?

In addition to applying to many more types of financial instruments, CECL meaningfully changes the way in which reserves are calculated. First, all in-scope assets must be segmented—or grouped—by common risk-based characteristics, determined and documented by each organization. ASC 326-20-55-5 provides examples of risk characteristics that individually, or in combination, may define a segment—a few examples include financial asset type, credit score or rating, geographical location, or term.

Once you have determined your segments, there are at least seven new methods for calculating the segment-level reserve. While the methods are mentioned in the standard, we’ve compiled a brief overview of the various methods for reference.

Another key change is that all in-scope assets must be considered for reserve—even those for which the likelihood of loss is small. Regardless of which allowable method(s) you choose for your calculation, the method is based on a life-of-asset time frame, meaning that you need to estimate risk of loss over the remaining time you believe the financial asset will be on your books.

Additionally, the standard requires you consider how this risk might change given a reasonable and supportable forecast of economic conditions over that remaining life. As a result of these key new elements, any in-scope financial asset(s) for which you compute and carry a $0 reserve must be very well-documented and explained.

New required financial statement disclosures

One final note: There are some new financial statement disclosures required with CECL adoption. Beyond those, there may be other CECL-related information either you want to share, or your audit/tax firm recommends be disclosed. Consulting with your auditor at least one quarter prior to financial statement preparation will help make sure you aren’t scrambling last minute to draft new language or tables. 

No matter what stage of CECL readiness you are in, our team of experts are here to help you navigate the requirements as efficiently and effectively as possible.
 

1Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 326

Article
CECL isn't just for banks: Are you ready?

Read this if your company is considering financing through a sale leaseback.

In today’s economic climate, some companies are looking for financing alternatives to traditional senior or mezzanine debt with financial institutions. As such, more companies are considering entering into sale leaseback arrangements. Depending on your company’s situation and goals, a sale leaseback may be a good option. Before you decide, here are some advantages and disadvantages that you should consider.

What is a sale leaseback?

A sale leaseback is when a company sells an asset and simultaneously enters into a lease contract with the buyer for the same asset. This transaction can be used as a method of financing, as the company is able to retrieve cash from the sale of the asset while still being able to use the asset through the lease term. Sale leaseback arrangements can be a viable alternative to traditional financing for a company that owns significant “hard assets” and has a need for liquidity with limited borrowing capacity from traditional financial institutions, or when the company is looking to supplement its financing mix.

Below are notable advantages, disadvantages, and other considerations for companies to consider when contemplating a sale leaseback transaction:

Advantages of using a sale leaseback

Sale leasebacks may be able to help your company: 

  • Increase working capital to deploy at a greater rate of return, if opportunities exist
  • Maintain control of the asset during the lease term
  • Avoid restrictive covenants associated with traditional financing
  • Capitalize on market conditions, if the fair value of an asset has increased dramatically
  • Reduce financing fees
  • Receive sale proceeds equal to or greater than the fair value of the asset, which generally is contingent on the company’s ability to fund future lease commitments

Disadvantages of using a sale leaseback

On the other hand, a sale leaseback may:

  • Create a current tax obligation for capital gains; however, the company will be able to deduct future lease payments.
  • Cause loss of right to receive any future appreciation in the fair value of the asset
  • Cause a lack of control of the asset at the end of the lease term
  • Require long-term financial commitments with fixed payments
  • Create loss of operational flexibility (e.g., ability to move from a leased facility in the future)
  • Create a lost opportunity to diversify risk by owning the asset

Other considerations in assessing if a sale leaseback is right for you

Here are some questions you should ask before deciding if a sale leaseback is the right course of action for your company: 

  • What are the length and terms of the lease?
  • Are the owners considering a sale of the company in the near future?
  • Is the asset core to the company’s operations?
  • Is entering into the transaction fulfilling your fiduciary duty to shareholders and investors?
  • What is the volatility in the fair value of the asset?
  • Does the transaction create any other tax opportunities, obligations, or exposures?

The Financial Accounting Standards Board’s new standard on leases, Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 842, is now effective for both public and private companies. Accounting for sale leaseback transactions under ASC Topic 842 can be very complex with varying outcomes depending on the structure of the transaction. It is important to determine if a sale has occurred, based on guidance provided by ASC Topic 842, as it will determine the initial and subsequent accounting treatment.

The structure of a sale leaseback transactions can also significantly impact a company’s tax position and tax attributes. If you’re contemplating a sale leaseback transaction, reach out to our team of experts to discuss whether this is the right path for you.

Article
Is a sale leaseback transaction right for you?

Read this if you are a care provider that receives Medicaid Waiver Payments.

The IRS has recently issued guidance related to the taxability of certain payments to individual care providers of eligible individuals under a state Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services waiver program described in section 1915(c) of the Social Security Act (Medicaid Waiver Payments). Such payments, treated as difficulty of care payments, are excludable from gross income for federal income tax purposes under section 131 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Notice 2014-7, issued on January 3, 2014, provided guidance that deemed the difficulty of care payments as not subject to federal income tax. However, the notice was silent regarding implications related to employment taxes, specifically FICA and FUTA. Additional guidance issued in the fall of 2022 concludes that difficulty of care payments are subject to FICA and FUTA taxes unless an exemption applies.

Generally, if a service provider receiving difficulty of care payments is an employee of the organization providing the payments, then such payments will be considered wages subject only to FICA withholding (but not income tax), and FUTA will be assessed on those wages. If the service provider is an independent contractor, then the organization does not have any withholding obligations and does not need to prepare a Form 1099.

More information on Medicaid Waiver Payments can be found at Certain Medicaid Waiver Payments May Be Excludable From Income | Internal Revenue Service.

If you have any questions on these payments or your specific situation, please contact our Not-for-profit Tax team. We’re here to help.

Article
Difficulty of care payments and employment taxes

Read this if you work for a charitable, not-for-profit organization that accepts gift-in-kind donations.

Not-for-profit organizations frequently receive contributions of nonfinancial assets, commonly referred to as gifts-in-kind. Examples of nonfinancial assets that could be considered gifts-in-kind include property, vehicles, equipment, the right to use property, vehicles or equipment, materials or supplies, or time and services. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) determined that existing Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) do not provide sufficient transparency to readers of financial statements. Prior guidance gave little specific guidance on presentation of gifts-in-kind other than contributed services. Therefore, FASB issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2020-07 Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958), effective for annual periods beginning after June 15, 2021, improving that transparency.

This article will provide a summary of the new gift-in-kind standard along with a refresher on existing tax implications of gifts-in-kind.

GAAP valuation of gifts-in-kind

The new ASU does not change the basis of measurement for gifts-in-kind, only the related disclosures. For instance, contributions of services are still only recognized if the services (1) either create or enhance nonfinancial assets or (2) require specialized skill, are provided by individuals possessing those skills, and would typically need to be purchased if not provided by donation.

Tax valuation of gifts-in-kind

There is no separate valuation for in-kind contributions for Form 990 or 990-PF reporting purposes. In-kind contributions should be reported on the Form 990 or 990-PF on the same basis as the financial statements.

Donated services and use of facilities are not included in revenue or expenses on the Form 990. Instead, they are included as reconciling items on Schedule D, reconciliation from financial statements to the Form 990, at the same amounts as reported on the financial statements.

GAAP disclosures and groupings for gifts-in-kind

The ASU specifies that gifts-in-kind need to be presented as a separate line item in the statement of activities rather than being included with other contributions. Additionally, the financial statements will need to disaggregate the various types of contributed nonfinancial assets. For instance, if a donor provides free office space to a not-for-profit and another donor provides free accounting services, these types of contributions should be shown separately in a footnote disclosure or in the statement of activities.

Not-for-profits will also have to disclose information about whether the gifts were monetized or used (for instance, if a contributed vehicle was sold) and what program they were used for, along with their policy regarding monetizing or using contributed nonfinancial assets. The ASU also requires disclosure of any donor-imposed restrictions on the gift-in-kind and what methods were used to value it. Finally, the financial statements must disclose the principal or most advantageous market used to arrive at the fair value measure if the organization is prohibited by the donor from selling or using the contributed nonfinancial asset in that market.

Tax disclosures and groupings for gifts-in-kind

The nature of the gift-in-kind determines where and how it is disclosed on Form 990. Gifts of nonfinancial assets (i.e. fixed assets, materials, supplies) are disclosed on Form 990 as noncash contributions. The total noncash contributions an organization receives during the year and records as revenue may mean additional schedules for your filing.

A public charity that receives total noncash contributions of $25,000 or more must also complete Schedule M. Private foundations do not complete Schedule M.

If an individual noncash contributor rises to the level of Schedule B reporting (by contributing a minimum of either $5,000 or, for some public charities, 2% of total contributions for the year), a description of the noncash contribution, date of contribution and the amount recorded as revenue must be disclosed on Schedule B. Schedule B is not subject to public disclosure for section 501(c)(3) public charities. However, the Form 990-PF’s Schedule B is subject to public disclosure.

Schedule M has specific groupings of noncash contributions, such as gifts of clothing and household items, vehicles, and real estate. Unlike Schedule B, Schedule M does not require the breakout of individual contributors. There are no groupings of like-kind contributions on Schedule B as individual donors must be reported separately.

Donated services and use of facilities are not disclosed on Schedule M. In contrast to GAAP reporting, donated services and use of facilities are removed from both revenue and expenses for Form 990 and 990-PF purposes as previously mentioned.

In addition to the reporting mentioned above, if your organization receives noncash contributions, there may be additional considerations to evaluate as well. The BerryDunn team is here to help answer any questions.

Article
ASU 2020-07: The gift (in-kind) that keeps on giving

Read this if you are a part of the gaming industry.

The gaming industry has bounced back during 2021 and 2022 following pandemic-related declines, but a potential economic downturn will likely impact consumer behavior and have effects for gaming businesses. Though recessionary concerns may prompt some consumers to rein in spending, several factors point to resilience in the gaming industry, including customer retention initiatives, the growth of digital gaming and sports betting, and the continued allure of experiences offered by casino resorts.

Instead of merely weathering a potential recession, gaming companies can position for sustained success by reviewing strategic plans and focusing on key business objectives. Financial discipline will be another priority, particularly if changes in consumer spending affect revenue growth during 2023.

Retention has a big payoff in a recessionary environment

Despite the rate of inflation in the US reaching levels not seen in more than 40 years during 2022, consumer spending has remained relatively strong. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), disposable personal income and personal consumption expenditures both increased slightly more than expected during September. Interest rates have continued to rise, however, and there are indications that some consumers are delaying the purchase of big-ticket items, which suggests a slowdown in some areas of spending.

To help mitigate the effects of a potential recession, gaming companies may consider shifting more attention to customer retention in addition to customer acquisition. That strategy could be especially important for sports betting, a subsector that has invested heavily in customer acquisition in recent years—and may not be as recession-proof as some had predicted. According to a TransUnion study, 54% of US sports bettors earn at least $100,000 per year, but even high-income earners show signs of cutting back on discretionary spending like gambling. Nevertheless, many sportsbooks have seen relatively low rates of customer churn this year despite inflation, which could be due partly to the growth in popularity of unique multi-leg wagers such as same-game parlays.

High costs for customer acquisition due to digital competition can pose challenges for companies trying to grow their consumer base, and recessionary pressures make it even more important to keep existing customers engaged. Fragmentation and evolving competition also complicate predictions for the lifetime value of a new customer. The longer a customer stays, however, the bigger the return on initial acquisition costs.

Retention strategies

Strategies that focus on retention can help reduce churn amid growing recessionary pressures. These strategies vary for different types of companies, such as online gambling (iGaming), land-based casinos, or a hybrid of online and on-premises gaming. Taking steps to improve customer experience and leverage data analytics can both help increase engagement. Such initiatives can include customized loyalty and reward programs based on a customer’s unique habits, as well as data insights about the most popular types of games and bets that enable cross-promotion. Reload bonuses, referral bonuses, free bets, and percentage back on losses are examples of other strategies to help keep existing players engaged. Critically, even small improvements in retention can have a significant impact on margins and profitability.

Growth potential remains, but a downturn would impact industry subsectors differently

If recessionary pressures prove to be a drag on consumer spending in the months ahead, it may affect some gaming sectors differently than others. Even if consumers reduce discretionary spending, casino resorts could still fare well because of their diversified offerings, but they also have much higher operating costs than dedicated iGaming companies. Land-based casinos in particular should practice financial discipline and manage labor costs. They can achieve this by maintaining balanced staffing levels, expanding electronic casino games, and adopting cashless gaming and digital payments.

Overall, casino resorts can provide a relatively affordable range of unique leisure experiences. People remain eager to travel after dealing with pandemic-related restrictions, and recent TSA checkpoint data indicates airport activity has been near or above 2019 levels. BEA data also indicates that consumer spending on services, such as travel and dining, has outpaced spending on goods in recent months.

Although research has shown flat levels of growth for casino gambling during previous recessions, the industry has seen several notable changes in recent years. Digital gaming remains a convenient option for consumers and has experienced a spike in adoption in recent years, which aids both digital-only operators and land-based casinos that offer a digital component. Casino resorts can also use data-backed insights to help convert their online customers into on-premises customers through targeted offers and other marketing initiatives.

Sports betting has also grown rapidly during the past five years, which provides an accessible platform for a much larger population of customers than previously. Before the US Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, only a few states could claim partial exemption to the 1992 federal ban on sports betting. As of November 2022, more than 30 states and the District of Columbia allow sports betting, and additional states are considering similar legislation.

Recession-related shifts in discretionary spending may not impact gaming as much as other consumer sectors. A May 2022 YouGov poll of 16 countries shows that while monthly gamblers may cut back on betting, they are more likely to reduce spending in other areas to maintain their monthly budget. A recession would still likely impact growth, so it is critical for gaming companies to protect revenue during a downturn.

Other developments also hold promise for the gaming industry. Casino stocks recently surged following China’s announcement of eased travel restrictions that would allow tour groups into Macau, the world's largest gambling jurisdiction. Overall, publicly traded gaming companies have enjoyed relatively strong earnings during 2022 despite market volatility, and many analysts have maintained “buy” ratings. A downturn could also give well-capitalized companies an opportunity to gain market share through acquisitions and partnerships.

Looking ahead: A sure thing

To help guard against the impact of recessionary pressures, managing costs and finding efficiencies will continue to be priorities. However, cutting back spending across the board can constrain growth and exacerbate customer churn. By combining financial discipline with a business strategy tailored to the effects of a potential downturn, gaming companies can continue the pandemic recovery and even thrive during volatility.

Article
Beyond weathering the storm: How the gaming industry can succeed during economically challenging timesĀ