In your own words, how would you describe the current state of the U.S. nation’s gaming industry?
The U.S. gaming industry has been experiencing slow economic recovery, and I’m very optimistic for what the future has in store for us. As anyone who follows the industry is well aware, revenues in 2008 and 2009 took a serious hit nationwide, and national revenues were flat in 2010. What we are seeing thus far from our collection of 2011 data is that revenues should tick up for the year.
There also is a great deal of buzz about expansion into some significant markets – casinos opening in Ohio this year and the legalization of casino gaming in Massachusetts should give the industry a boost going forward.
Is there any current legislation you’d like to address and how it would affect the state of gaming for its respective jurisdiction?
Federal legislation allowing states to license and regulate online poker is needed now more than ever. In December, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released an opinion regarding the scope of the Federal Wire Act and how it pertains to online gambling, but honestly, it creates many more questions than it does answers. The opinion illustrates the urgent need for federal legislation to prevent a patchwork quilt of rules and regulations governing domestic online gambling and the continued proliferation of unlicensed and unregulated foreign gambling websites targeting the millions of Americans playing online poker.
Passing legislation like this would ensure that Americans who play poker online can do so safely using responsible, law-abiding operators, and passing federal guidelines would keep minors from gaming online, prevent fraud and money laundering, address problem gambling and ensure players aren’t being cheated.
Is there anything else you personally would like to see done to improve the overall state of gaming in the nation today?
I think that gaming regulatory reform is something that would improve the industry across the board – for manufacturers and operators of all sizes and in all jurisdictions.
Last fall, the AGA released a white paper detailing ten recommendations for streamlining gaming regulations while maintaining the integrity and transparency our industry is known for. Many of the gaming regulations currently in place across the country were developed decades ago. Regulation needs to evolve as advancing technology transforms the industry, changing not only the games to be regulated, but also the tools available to regulators.
Currently, the AGA is coordinating with our members and state gaming associations across the country to work with regulators to see which regulations can be revised and improved, as well as working with new gaming jurisdictions to ensure that new regulations reflect the industry in its current state.
Could you comment on some of the biggest issues our industry is looking at right now? I.e., the DoJ’s reversal of the Wire Act, the news of mega resort efforts in states like Florida and New York, etc.
I already talked about the DOJ decision, so I’ll address the news of mega resort expansion efforts in New York and Florida. Whenever expansion efforts are in the news, you hear a lot of anti-gaming groups alleging the negative impacts of gaming. One way to combat this is through independent research about the positive economic impact of industry.
In February, the AGA released “Beyond the Casino Floor: Economic Impacts of the Commercial Casino Industry,” which offers in-depth analysis of the scope of the gaming industry, including data on the effects of industry spending as well as industry supported and induced spending. The report shows the economic activity supported by the commercial casino industry is roughly equivalent to 1 percent of the $14.5 trillion U.S. gross domestic product in 2010.
The report also examines the direct, indirect and induced jobs, wages and taxes generated by the commercial casino industry, detailing each at the state and county level. For a full copy of the report, visit www.americangaming.org/BeyondTheCasinoFloor.
What other issues is your association currently working to resolve, or what goals are you working to reach?
The AGA is constantly striving to improve the business climate in the gaming industry, and one way we do that is by creating business opportunities for the industry through the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) family of events. Along with our trade show partner, Reed Exhibitions, the AGA hosts two of the world’s premier gaming events – G2E in Las Vegas and G2E Asia in Macau – that bring together show floors with the latest products and innovations, education about the trends and issues shaping the industry and networking opportunities with colleagues from around the world.
Does the AGA have any exciting plans for the coming year?
The AGA will continue its work of telling the story of the modern commercial casino industry, and a key part of that story are the important contributions that gaming companies make through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, making the communities where they operate better places to live, work and play. This year, shining the light on these activities will be an ongoing theme in the AGA’s communications efforts.
The AGA will focus on the industry’s charitable contributions, volunteer initiatives, environmental stewardship, diversity and responsible gaming by leveraging national events to highlight the various CSR efforts of AGA member companies and the industry as a whole. We also will release two white papers that provide a qualitative and quantitative look at industrywide efforts in the areas of corporate giving, volunteerism and environmental sustainability.
How do you think 2012 will be for the industry, as opposed to years past?
I think 2012 will be a good year for the industry. I think we will continue to see an improvement in revenues and visitation numbers, especially if the economy improves and consumer confidence increases.
States opening new properties and others looking to expand can only be good for the industry as it continues the conversation about gaming. Our industry has a positive story to tell about what we bring to communities, and expansion allows us to tell it. Also, U.S gaming companies will continue to have success internationally. The Asian and Latin American markets are real growth opportunities, so U.S. companies in those jurisdictions will continue to see positive growth.