I recently attended my 18th East Coast Gaming Congress; in these two decades, I have witnessed numerous changes as commercial land-based, racino, riverboat and tribal gaming has proliferated nationwide.
But, don’t be fooled. The industry’s expansion did not happen because legislators suddenly developed a fondness for gaming. No, their reluctant acceptance came from recognizing gaming as a successful vehicle to revive cash-strapped state treasuries via tax revenues.
While some gaming industry members have come and gone, a large core group remain active as the elder statesmen. There is always a specific group that stays around, no matter what. They often have great information to share, but some also just rehash old thoughts and ideas. That is what I expected at this year’s conference – the usual seminar sessions with the usual speakers.
I am happy to say I was wrong. Although many familiar speakers were listed on the schedule, many new names also appeared on the agenda. Dozens of unfamiliar, younger faces dotted the audience of several hundred. The large attendance encourages me to believe that gaming, whether within the operation or supply side, remains a highly desirable career path for younger people to enter.
In an effort to address Internet gaming (a key issue on the U.S. horizon) the organizers debuted a separate afternoon workshop called the iGaming Institute. Online gaming would be discussed in three sessions that focused on different themes. The panelists all came with unique perspectives, and while most of the conversation was positive, not all comments and predictions were rosy.
What a learning experience. I will share my information and notes with you next month. Look for an expanded “Stateside Column“ to review the current successes and drawbacks in the three operational states: New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. I will also discuss the future of online gaming.
After the two-day meeting, I realized we are in a new day. Every industry needs fresh blood to appeal to younger generations who have novel ideas and methods for a changing business environment.
For example, the American Gaming Association (AGA) is proactively positioning itself under Geoff Freeman‘s new leadership by hiring several employees. Some come from industries outside gaming.
The AGA is launching a three-tier “Get to Know Gaming” campaign to promote the industry’s value, battle outdated stereotypes and formulate future regulatory policies that encourage “innovation and financial efficiencies.”
The campaign will highlight strong relationships with community leaders, law enforcement, small businesses and industry employees. The three components are:
Promote the Value of Gaming: Gaming spurs economic growth, as more than 76 million people visited a casino in 2012.
The 2012 Brattle Group report claims commercial casinos generate approximately $125 billion annually in direct and indirect spending. This includes supplier purchases and salaries/ benefits for 800,000+ American employees in jobs like accounting, hotel management, information systems, technology, software, food and beverage, retail, entertainment and more.
Combat Outdated Stereotypes: The public must dismiss outdated myths about gaming. Casinos support neighborhood small businesses, including minority and women-owned companies. They employ local workers and form alliances with area charities. Casinos appeal to diverse visitors desiring multiple casino dining and entertainment options. Communities with casinos should recognize quality partnerships formed within their jurisdictions.
Pave the Way for Visionary Regulatory Policy: 48 states now permit some form of gaming, reaffirming its widespread acceptance. However, more casinos have increased competition, often negatively impacting the revenues of hundreds of properties.
While many industries demand municipal and state tax subsidies as a relocation incentive, gaming often confronts a “tax and torture” mentality. The public’s misconception of gaming’s unlimited revenues often forces punitive tax rates that often hinder innovation and reinvestment. The AGA will advocate for equal treatment.
These ideas will hopefully move the industry ahead. But, a word of advice for the next generation as it carries the torch forward. Incorporate the foundations already established. You need not reinvent the wheel.
Your predecessors spent many sleepless nights building a respectable industry in their communities. Smart, visionary people are just that, whether they traveled in their time by chariot, covered wagon or jet. These successful pioneers laid the groundwork. The responsibility rests with you in the next generation to advance those achievements.