16th Annual East Coast Gaming Congress: AC’s Turnaround

Sixteen years ago, Michael Pollock and Lloyd D. Levenson started the Rutgers University Gaming Symposium to serve as a gathering place for industry executives located in Atlantic City. And now, that symposium has morphed into the East Coast Gaming Congress & Hospitality Forum, where hundreds of executives from Canada to New York to Florida convene to network and learn.

“We did it to fill a void and give an opportunity to the regulators, the casino operators and vendors to have a place to come and gather and share views of the gaming, hospitality and tourism industries,” said Levenson, who is CEO of Cooper Levenson Attorneys at Law. “Every year, it’s becoming more and more successful.”

Held May 16 and 17 at recently opened Revel in Atlantic City, this year’s event was particularly extraordinary. Moods sailed high, with attendees expressing optimism about the industry. “Last year, there was a sort of depressive atmosphere. Numbers in AC were down, and AC’s competitors’ numbers were up. Revel hadn’t opened. The mood was completely different this year,” Levenson said.

“In 16 years of producing this event, this was arguably the most exciting,” added Pollock, managing director at Spectrum Gaming Group.

With the Atlantic City Alliance in place, the tourism district in full swing and sports betting and i-gaming initiatives on the table, it’s no wonder positivity filled the halls of Revel. “It became infectious among all participants that there was optimism about the AC market,” Levenson said.

Teaming with the Atlantic City Hospitality Trade Show for the first time, the conference attracted a wide range of exhibitors and attendees. “We were happy to put on those hospitality programs because I think many of our East Coast registrants enjoyed it,” Levenson said. “The hospitality portion of the event dovetailed perfectly with gaming, and helped demonstrate to attendees that they need to think about more than gaming or hospitality alone,” Pollock added.

Panel discussions on topics such as i-gaming, operating in the mid-Atlantic and entertainment beyond the gaming floor enthralled attendees. The i-gaming panel, “Understanding the I-Gaming Frenzy,” encouraged discussion about Internet gambling, how it will change the industry and the realities that come along with it. During the discussion, gaming operators from outside of the U.S. explained the dos and don’ts of i-gaming. The overall message from the panel was that Congress is likely too impaired to come to a decision on an issue as critical as online gaming.

Moderated by Levenson, speakers on the panel included Richard D. Bronson, chairman of U.S. Digital Gaming; David Clifton, licensing and gaming partner at Joelson Wilson LLP, London; Eugene Johnson, senior associate for market research at Spectrum Gaming; Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak of the New Jersey State Senate; Michael Rumbolz, board member for Seminole Hard Rock Holdings LLC, and chairman, Internet Gaming Committee; William Scott, vice president strategic business development at GTECH G2; and Eamonn Toland, president of Paddy Power North America.

The buzz continued on the show floor, with sports betting and i-gaming dominating conversations. Also on the tongues of attendees were Revel and Atlantic City’s renewed competitiveness in the East Coast market. Other than its first few years in existence, the Congress has traditionally been held at the Atlantic City Convention Center or Boardwalk Hall, not a resort. Attendees were impressed with the space at Revel. Called The Social, the event area spans two levels, and has room for 600 people. “It was magnificent,” Levenson commented. “Everything was state-of-the-art—the sound, the visuals, the seating. It’s one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever seen in my life.”

(Left to right) Kim Butler, director of communications for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, and Don Marrandino, Eastern division president of Caesars Entertainment, enjoy Revel’s gaming floor.
(Left to right) Kim Butler, director of communications for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, and Don Marrandino, Eastern division president of Caesars Entertainment, enjoy Revel’s gaming floor.
Kevin DeSanctis, CEO of Revel Entertainment, was happy to open his Atlantic City resort to the conference. “It was our pleasure to host East Coast Gaming Congress within weeks after opening Revel,” he said. “The attendees of ECGC are an important group of influencers in the gaming and hospitality industry, and we were honored to showcase Revel to them.” Pollock adds that Revel was the ideal venue for the conference, noting that the property drew rave reviews, as did everything from the quality of the lunches to the great acoustics in the rooms.

A successful conference under its belt, the organizers of the East Coast Gaming Congress & Hospitality Forum reflect on why the event is so important. “We founded the East Coast Gaming Congress to be a premier forum for industry leaders to present and discuss ideas. It is a perfect extension of all our other work. The conference is simply one way to communicate with the industry, and it has proven to be a very effective way,” Pollock said.

Learning from, and networking with the highest level people in the gaming, hospitality and tourism industries, from both inside Atlantic City and outside Atlantic City, is an offering unique to the event. “Here, you can talk to and mingle with CEOs and other people you should know if you’re working in the gaming, hospitality and tourism industry,” Levenson said.

“The East Coast Gaming Congress & Hospitality Forum addresses all of the major issues facing gaming nationally and regionally. No other conference has the ability to benchmark the progress of gaming in Atlantic City, and now other markets, and share important data with the industry,” DeSanctis added.

And just why do the organizers put on the event every year? Levenson says they do it for the industry, “We do it to make sure there is something in the New Jersey/New York/ Pennsylvania/Connecticut/Delaware/Maryland metro area where people can come together to network and share with each other and with others from as far away as Canada to the north and Florida to the south.”

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