Caesars Entertainment establishes fund to combat human trafficking

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and Caesars Entertainment is getting involved by establishing the Shared Future Fund to combat human trafficking and its effects.

The Shared Future Fund initially will be supported by in-kind donations and direct financial support from Caesars Entertainment and will be augmented by a fundraising event to be held in the spring. The fund will be used to finance philanthropic goals in the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson, Nev., with the initial goal to provide support for women and children affected by trauma associated with human trafficking. These traumas include homelessness and immigration concerns.

“Every year we look at, globally, what are the material and priority interests that would impact our business, and that includes the communities we work in,” Gwen Migita, social impact and inclusion VP and chief sustainability officer at Caesars Entertainment, told Hotel Management. “In that assessment, we recognized we needed or could do much more to be a voice and organizer in the private sector for key issues in our region.”

The Shared Future Fund will be controlled and managed by ImpactNV, a Southern Nevada nonprofit formed to improve communities in the state. Together, Caesars Entertainment and ImpactNV identified three priority areas for the Shared Future Fund: human trafficking, homelessness and immigrant integration. According to Migita, the fund expects to take “a couple years” to identify a strategic roadmap for combatting these three challenges.

“While the innovation and drive to get things done is there, we face challenges around maintaining a self-sustaining model, having it stick and creating accountability,” Migita said. “This is important, because it may become harder to sustain down the line. Because of the shared accountability, we want to focus on how many paths we can take to have the same end result 10 to 15 years from now.”

One future plan Migita said Caesars is interested in following up on is guest education, but the company sees it as a long-term challenge that focuses around shifting the culture and decision making for visitors to Las Vegas.

“Concurrent with this announcement we had two to three years of regional collaboration involving workshops and service providers. This surgically targeted decision making and education, showing guests that human trafficking is not a choice,” Migita said. “We’re looking at shifting the narrative to understand who the victims are and away from victim blaming.”

The Code

The founding of the Shared Future Fund is the second step Caesars has taken this month in the fight against human trafficking. On Jan. 2, the company signed ECPAT International’s Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, otherwise known as “The Code,” which provides a platform for companies to share best practices to end human trafficking.

The Code is a joint venture between the tourism and hospitality industries and ECPAT, a policy organization combatting the commercial sexual exploitation of children. According to Michelle Guelbart, director of private sector engagement at ECPAT-USA, Caesars is the first global gaming and entertainment company to sign The Code, establishing a framework for companies to provide training, enact a value chain and educate, support and collaborate with stakeholders.

“It’s walking the walk and talking the talk,” Guelbart told Hotel Management. “This, along with the establishment of the Shared Future Fund, is a good example of what can happen, in practice, when a company like Caesars builds momentum and takes action.”

Fight Together

ECPAT-USA previously worked with Marriott International to roll out a companywide training program to combat sex trafficking, and Guelbart said the success of such a program relies solely on the level of commitment a company is willing to undertake. Furthermore, she said successful programs require frequent updates and attention to remain effective. 

"This is not about having a policy or launching a program, it’s about what the company looks like under the hood,” Guelbart said. “It’s important for companies to evolve the conversation. You can’t send the same links and landing pages, you have to share stories about how the training worked for associates and continue talking about these struggles in an ongoing manner. If you do that, people keep looking and they will see the connection.”

Caesars is far from the only organization active in preventing human trafficking in hotels. Over the past two years, the hotel industry has seen a resurgence of activity in educating and training regarding this issue, which has been led in part by the Asian American Hotel Owners Association. In 2018, AAHOA worked with human rights groups Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking and the Polaris Project to develop training to detect and counter human trafficking, rolling it out across its member base throughout the year.

Now, Chip Rogers, current president and CEO of AAHOA and upcoming president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, said AAHOA is watching Caesars’ execution of the Shared Future Fund and considering ways to replicate it in the future should the program be successful.

“We applaud Caesars for their unique approach to combatting human trafficking in hospitality,” Rogers said. “There is no single answer to this issue. Our focus right now is on making sure we have hotel personnel trained on the spot to prevent it at the property level. Our goal right now is to expand our ambassador network of people who can train hoteliers each year.”