Seeking Forward Progress in 2015

Just a couple weeks before the end of the year, Las Vegas broke its record for all-time yearly visitation, welcoming its 40 millionth visitor of 2014.

That says something about the resilience of the nation’s gaming capital. But we hope that Las Vegas’ resurgence also can be taken as a positive sign for gaming jurisdictions facing challenging times, jurisdictions such as New Jersey’s Atlantic City, which saw the demise of four—with a fifth teetering on the brink of closure—of its 12 casinos, mainly due to increased competition and saturation in mid-Atlantic markets.

On Dec. 17, the American Gaming Association took a step toward addressing some of the issues that are potentially hampering gaming’s success in some markets. The AGA released a new online resource called By the Book, (www.gamingbythebook.org) a first-of-its-kind resource that allows stakeholders, policymakers, regulators and others to compare commercial gaming regulations for each state. “This new database is important because it begins to pave the way for regulators and policymakers to consider and compare their policies against others and talk a bit more about what policies will empower greater reinvestment, greater innovation and greater growth in the gaming industry,” AGA CEO Geoff Freeman told reporters during a conference call.

Acknowledging it’s been disheartening to see the Atlantic City casino closures and job losses, Freeman noted it has also been informative. “In communities that have gaming, it’s clear that you have to make sure that your product is as competitive as possible,” he said, citing areas such as tax structure, regulatory policies and “tourism policies, when it comes to infrastructure and making your destination attractive to visitors.”

It’s that last area, he said, where Atlantic City seemed to come up short. “We think that Atlantic City provides lessons for other markets … as to how to remain competitive,” Freeman said. “We’re hopeful that Atlantic City, which has obviously been right-sizing its market for the last couple months, has a bright future and that 2015 will be a stronger year than 2014.”

As CEM unveils its annual 2015 Gaming Industry Forecast inside this issue, it was fortuitous that Freeman spent time during the conference call to take stock of the AGA’s accomplishments in 2014 and to look forward into the new year.

Among the accomplishments he cited are the AGA’s recent release of best practices for anti-money-laundering compliance and its Get to Know Gaming initiative (www.gettoknowgaming.org). The AGA’s 2015 goals include expanding the Get to Know Gaming campaign to put a face on the people working in the industry; supporting efforts to shut down illegal gaming; and fostering development of next generation gaming policy that will promote reinvestment and innovation. “Gaming is an incredibly complex industry that continues to evolve and the AGA will continue to push for policies that encourage innovation, reinvestment and job creation,” he said.

One of Freeman’s most intriguing comments focused on the AGA taking a closer look at sports betting, in light of NBA commissioner Alan Silver’s recent comments supporting legalizing sports betting.

“The AGA is exploring this area, determining what the obstacles are, what the opportunities are, what the business potential is,” Freeman said. “We’re doing that hand in hand with the industry, and we’ll determine at a later point in time what our position is on this particular matter.”

Now, look further inside this issue to find out what others in our industry have to say about the challenges and prospects for 2015.

Peter Mead
Publisher
Casino Enterprise Management

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