Thursday, October 4, 2012 : TOP EXEC PANEL DISCUSSES ONLINE GAMBLING
Even Las Vegas Sands knows it's coming….
Top US gambling industry execs shared their thoughts on the advent of legalised online gambling during a session at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas Wednesday, following a key note address in which American Gaming Association chief Frank Fahrenkopf urged federal legalization
Covering the event, the Associated Press news agency noted that the consensus was that Internet gambling is inevitable and that U.S. companies and customers are vulnerable to overseas Internet poker operations.
"But the chief executives of Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp. differed during a keynote panel discussion with four other industry leaders about whether states or the federal government are best able to provide oversight," the service reports.
Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson has become well known for his antipathy to online gambling, but even his Las Vegas Sands chief Michael Leven admitted that despite Adelson's fears: "We know it's coming."
Leven said he agrees with Adelson that individual states, not the federal government, should adopt regulations, a preference at odds with most of the big land operators and the AGA, which favours a federal solution.
"We have concerns about any bill that's going to add more people to the federal government," Leven said. "I'm a state's rights guy. We don't like to see the government getting any bigger."
However, he stressed that Adelson – a massive contributor the Republican Party political coffers – hasn't been lobbying for his position on Internet gambling.
Leven took a more cautious and perhaps pessimistic approach to other panelists, saying: "We believe that when everyone gets into it, the cost of acquisition will go up and profitability will go down. So it's not going to be a free lunch."
MGM Resorts International chief executive Jim Murren said his company supports the American Gaming Association position that the federal government should adopt regulations to protect U.S. customers, thus avoiding an inconsistent patchwork of different state requirements.
"We believe we can make money on this and are embracing it as an opportunity," said Murren.
"We will not be Amazoned," he added, referring to the drastic impact online sales from companies such as Amazon.com Inc have had on traditional firms.
Gambling equipment makers on the panel said they saw opportunities for their businesses, with Internet poker introduced around the world and other casino games following.
"Don't think of it as threatening," said Patti Hart, chief executive of International Game Technology. "Think of it as layering. It allows the industry to grow again.
"The gambling industry has always done a great job of reinventing itself. To grow again in the U.S., it's critical," she opined.
Brian Gamache, president and chief executive of WMS Industries said his firm has been doing business in the United Kingdom for three years. He called Internet poker a "stalking horse" that attracts players who later turn to other games that are more profitable for operators.
"Online gaming is here. Our biggest challenge is converting the 25 to 35 year old to becoming participants in our industry," said Gamache.
Walter Bugno, the head Spielo International, called customer loyalty and retention the key challenge for companies offering Internet gambling.
"It's only one click of the finger and you're gone," Bugno said.