As we mark the passage of an important milestone – the conclusion of the first decade of a new century – I cannot help marveling at the U.S. commercial casino industry’s many achievements during the past 10 years.
The last decade was one of tremendous growth for our industry. Revenues surged – increasing by more than $7 billion between 2000 and 2008 – as casinos expanded into Pennsylvania and racinos rapidly multiplied from New Mexico to Maine.
In addition, gaming establishments across the country evolved from traditional slot parlors into world-class resorts. The recent opening of CityCenter – Las Vegas’ ground-breaking city-within-a-city – is evidence that our industry remains steadfastly committed to ingenuity and innovation.
And though the economic recession took a toll on our industry last year, casinos across the country continued to put hundreds of thousands of people to work and contribute billions in tax revenues to communities struggling to stay afloat. Thankfully, while economic indicators portend a slow recovery for consumer-driven industries like ours, recent revenue reports reveal that gaming finally may have turned a corner.
Looking to the future, the coming year promises movement on a variety of legislative issues that will significantly impact how businesses in our industry operate. The American Gaming Association (AGA) is prepared to proactively promote our industry’s interests, and to engage in debates on Capitol Hill with a resonant, unified voice.
We expect that the healthcare debate, which has dominated national headlines for the past year, will soon reach culmination. Likewise, discussions regarding climate change legislation and labor reform are likely to escalate in 2010. In addition, with the delay in implementation of the regulations sanctioned by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, Internet gambling is sure to be a hot topic among legislators, though movement on this issue during an election year is unlikely.
The AGA is hard at work positioning our industry at the forefront of these issues and others that matter most to our members. In 2010, the AGA once again will host a gaming industry fly-in event, which will convene gaming executives in Washington to meet with our nation’s top decision-makers. In addition, we will encourage our members to engage elected officials on the issues that are most important to them by using the resources available through the AGA’s online Gaming Advocacy Center.
The AGA also will continue to expand and refine its widely popular Global Gaming Expo (G2E) family of events in 2010. This June marks the fourth anniversary of G2E Asia, which, despite its short history, has become the biggest and most important gaming event in the region. Macau’s recent rebound – the peninsula’s gaming revenue rose more than 22 percent during the third quarter of last year – and the opening of two gaming resorts in Singapore are sure to generate considerable excitement at the event.
Likewise, the AGA will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its flagship G2E event, which takes place in Las Vegas each November, in 2010. We look forward to entering a new decade on the heels of last year’s exceptionally successful event, where, according to preliminary reports, attendance figures grew by more than 7 percent. The event will continue to evolve to keep up with our ever-changing industry, offing attendees access to unparalleled business, educational and networking opportunities.
Also next year, the AGA will continue its efforts to advance responsible gaming. Once again, we will host Responsible Gaming Education Week in August. The National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), our affiliated charity, will expand its educational initiatives in 2010, including proactively promoting implementation of the widely praised college gambling policy recommendations released last year. Additionally, the NCRG’s scientific advisory board plans to take the organization’s grant-making efforts in fascinating new directions.
As the AGA embarks on a new year and a new decade, we will remain focused on providing the resources and support that will help usher our members into a new era of growth and prosperity. Though the coming year surely will bring challenges – both seen and unforeseen – I am enthusiastic about the many opportunities that lie ahead.