Poker's green pioneers and how you can join the charge for a sustainable future

Live Stream Set at the 2023 WSOP
Maris Catania SG:certified
Maris Catania
Posted on: October 28, 2023 05:50 PDT

As a safer-gambling researcher for SG:certified with a background in poker, I've long recognized the importance of playing the game responsibly. It’s fairly easy to appreciate the ways in which developing qualities like self-awareness and self-discipline can help us enjoy our favorite pastime in a healthier way, and I’m happy to play a small part in driving that dialogue forward.

When it comes to environmental sustainability, however, the conversation tends to grow quieter. Poker tournaments and their impact on the environment might not be the first thing on your mind at the tables, but the discussion is certainly worth having in the context of safer gambling.

WSOP pioneering the green movement

Main Event Wide field Horseshoe Events Center The WSOP is leading the way on environmental issues Melissa Haereiti

One of the most renowned poker tournaments, the World Series of Poker (WSOP), is leading the charge in implementing sustainable practices.

In an effort to reduce paper waste, the WSOP has transitioned to digital registration and payout processes, significantly cutting down on paper usage. Moreover, organizers actively encourage carpooling and the use of public transportation for participants attending events in Las Vegas, a city known for its extravagant energy consumption.

WSOP parent company Caesars has been progressive in this area too, having established the CodeGreen Initiative back in 2008 to serve as the foundation for its environmental stewardship. This initiative encompasses efforts to reduce waste water and energy usage, along with a dedication to collaborating with other organizations to advance industry-wide and corporate climate leadership. These efforts have borne fruit, with Caesars reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 23% since 2011, cutting water consumption by 11% since 2008, and diverting 58,000 tons of waste from landfills in 2017 alone.

In practice, tournament rooms at WSOP events feature water jugs for players to use, promoting the use of refillable bottles and recycling all waste behind the scenes.

The WSOP furthermore began collaborating with the One Drop Foundation in 2012 to provide safe water and sanitation to communities in need all around the world. Their commitment is tangible, with events like the "Big One for One Drop" raising substantial funds for charitable causes.

One Drop events have produced some spectacular poker moments, and raised a lot of money for charity Joe Giron/Poker News

The World Poker Tour recently acquired this partnership as part of its own efforts to promote environmental sustainability through charity tournaments.

There is always a palpable buzz in the air during the lead-up to the one-million-dollar affair,” said Alexandre Meunier, Chief Marketing and Events Officer for the One Drop Foundation. “The magnitude of the buy-in, of the prize pool, but also of the funds that are directed to the crucial cause of access to safe water makes the Big One the event of all superlatives.”

Since 2012, One Drop poker events have generated more than $25 million to support the global clean-water cause.

Chumash Casino Resort setting the bar for zero waste

Another remarkable example of sustainability in the world of gambling is the Chumash Casino Resort in California, which made history by becoming the first casino in the world to earn TRUE Zero Waste certification.

Chumash has taken innovative steps to divert its waste stream from local landfills, a significant achievement that earned them a TRUE Silver rating. The waste diversion program included partnerships with various organizations, such as CARE, TerraCycle, Veggie Rescue, Engel & Gray, Clean the World Foundation, Textile Waste Solutions, and Frontline International. These collaborations ensured that materials and resources were responsibly managed, whether it was recycling Styrofoam cups, reducing paper products, converting used cooking oil into bio-diesel, or distributing excess food to those in need.

“Our Zero Waste initiatives are a source of pride for our tribe and the Chumash Casino Resort,” said Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, which owns and operates the Chumash Casino Resort. “We all have a responsibility to reduce our environmental footprint, and we hope to inspire gaming resorts worldwide to do their part.”

Chumash Casino is the first in the world to get TRUE Zero Waste certification

The property’s efforts serve as a model for other casinos and large enterprises across the country seeking to reduce their environmental impact. In 2018 alone, the Chumash Casino Resort diverted an impressive 91% of its waste from local landfills, with a highlight being the partnership with Veggie Rescue, which distributed prepared food from the resort buffet to those in need.

How the poker community can help make a real impact

It is essential for poker enthusiasts and tournament organizers to support the steps that the WSOP, Chumash, and others are taking to reduce their environmental impact in this particular corner of the gambling industry. These changes at the corporate level undoubtedly represent some big strides, but they don’t negate our individual responsibility.

For the broader poker community, there are numerous sustainable practices that can be adopted to minimize our collective footprint. These include transitioning a portion of live tournaments to online platforms to reduce travel, using eco-friendly materials for consumables, and implementing digital-first processes across other aspects of our day-to-day life.

This line of thinking is particularly relevant to those with the loudest voices in poker. We can all cite instances in which the community has come together to rally around a given person or cause, and there’s no reason that sustainability can’t be another focal point for these group efforts.

Eco-awareness campaigns, educational workshops, and green exhibits can additionally play a significant role in promoting sustainability within the poker community. Tournaments have the potential to become more than just competitive events; they can become platforms for positive change on a scale that far exceeds the capabilities of any individual player.

By embracing sustainable practices and promoting eco-conscious behaviors, we can help ensure that the poker community contributes to a greener future for the whole planet. It's time to shuffle up and deal a better, more sustainable hand.

Maris Catania is an expert in the safer gambling space, and is currently working as a Senior Consultantat SG:certified.

Photos: Joe Giron; WPT