Thursday September 26,2013 : TOP EXECS DISCUSS THE U.S. GAMBLING INDUSTRY
Online gambling now seen by many as a key element in the industry's future.
Low consumer spending, the proliferation of online gambling, and market saturation were key issues discussed this week by a panel of senior land gambling executives at the G2E conference and expo currently running in Las Vegas…and a surprising degree of unanimity was on display as they examined their concerns and options.
The panel consisted of CEOs from the Pearl River Resort (Holly Gagnon); Ultimate Gaming (Tobin Prior); Capri Casinos (Virginia McDowell); Pinnacle Entertainment (Anthony Sanfilippo); and Penn National Gaming president and chief operating officer Timothy Wilmott, who were moderated by gaming journalist Jon Ralston.
Inevitably, the state-by-state legalization of online gambling was examined, with some members of the panel saying their companies had internet ambitions, but were waiting to see how the pioneers in states like Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey fared, and what impact online and mobile gambling would have on the bricks and mortar business.
Ultimate Gaming boss Tobin Prior, whose company became the first to launch a legalised intrastate online poker site in Nevada earlier this year, said the absence of political will in Congress to federally legalise online gambling has meant that the initiative has passed to individual states, many of which were actively considering the possibilities.
Prior said that in addition to Nevada, his company is partnering with Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City as part of its strategy to enter the legalised New Jersey online gambling market.
“We are prepared to operate state-by-state, and we’re moving forward state-by-state,” he said, but cautioned that state-by-state legalization carried the risk that a range of different regulatory requirements from state to state could evolve, complicating business operations.
There appeared to be consensus that online gambling was now an established element in US gambling, and companies would increasingly be looking at the genre to maintain competitiveness, and as another source of revenue going forward.
However some fears were voiced that the spread of legalised online gambling could take business away from land casinos – especially in regions where gamblers had to travel significant distances to reach the casino, and some companies were therefore adopting a "wait-and-see" attitude.
Anthony Sanfilippo said the US debate around internet gambling reminded him of similar ambitions and concerns 20 years ago, when the brick and mortar gambling business started to spread beyond Atlantic City and Nevada.
The panel was in broad agreement that consumers were spending less as a consequence of the prolonged economic recession, and that it was difficult to maintain profitability levels. This would hopefully ease as the financial health of the United States improved, along with the discretionary income of gamblers.
Land casino gamblers were not there simply to gamble, but to enjoy the total experience of shows, shops, hotel breaks and restaurants, the panel agreed.
Most companies had a desire to expand, but the proliferation of land casinos across the nation has made the business more competitive on a regional basis, and operators are now looking for states where this is less pronounced, but where a thus far little-serviced demand for gambling exists.