Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Capital Development


Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Chair

Cyndi Gaudet

Committee Chair Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 2

Heather Annulis

Committee Member 2 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 3

Patricia Phillips

Committee Member 3 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 4

Dale Lunsford

Committee Member 4 Department

Human Capital Development


The casino industry in America continues to grow. As the industry expands, the competition for revenue generation and market share increases. This requires the ability to differentiate from the competition and create competitive advantage, within a highly commoditized industry. In service of this need, capable gaming executives are necessary to design and execute the strategy required. Human resource (HR) leaders are not immune from this requirement. Human resource leaders are in an excellent position to create an HR strategy aligned with organizational strategy to capitalize on an employers’ workforce in support of differentiation and sustained competitive advantage.

Six research objectives were established for this study to describe the perceptions of casino HR leaders and casino business-unit leaders relating to the perceived value of the HR function as a viable method to achieving sustained competitive advantage in the Mississippi casino industry. The study employed a cross-sectional, non-experimental, descriptive research design and a 23-question survey to collect descriptive, quantitative, and qualitative data. The researcher used online survey software to distribute the survey and collect data. The population consisted of approximately 294 property-level HR and Business-Unit Leaders employed in the Mississippi casino industry.

Study results revealed a majority of respondents were college graduates, between the ages of 30-59 years of age and averaged approximately 18 years of experience in the gaming industry, and approximately 14 years in the Mississippi casino industry. Findings demonstrate a perception gap between HR Leader and Business-Unit Leader Groups in many areas. HR leaders overvalue their contribution to strategy development and business partnership compared to the business-unit group’s perception. HR leaders perceive their understanding of human capital and their ability to add value through talent decisions more than the management group. However, business-unit leaders perceive real value in the HR function more than just as a cost-based center of operation, and perceive the HR leaders to have the business skills necessary to be successful in the Mississippi gaming industry. Both groups report satisfaction with the HR leader’s knowledge and skills, although HR leader rank their satisfaction higher than management. However, management perceives HR leaders spend more time in file maintenance roles and less time in strategic business partnership. Although there were several benefits and barriers of achieving strategic HR alignment, the HR leader’s cross-functional knowledge was both a potential benefit and barrier to achieving alignment. Although HR has some role in strategy in Mississippi casinos, it is not as a full business partner. Results demonstrate HR plays more of a strategy implementation role. Analysis indicates when HR’s perceived role in strategy increases, anticipation of HR budget growth and HR inclusion in strategy formulation increases. Both groups perceive the HR function in Mississippi casinos has the potential to help create a sustained competitive advantage for casino organizations. Additionally, as perception of an integrated HR strategy increases, the perception of HR as a competitive differentiator and source of sustained competitive advantage increases.

Recommendations for research include replicating the study in Mississippi during a period of economic growth for Mississippi casinos to account for the financial declines associated with the recession and the BP oil spill. Study replication in other jurisdictions would determine if the results of this study remain constant in other states. Additional research is warranted to understand how other casino departments add value to casinos’ strategic positioning.