LAS VEGAS — Each year at G2E, the annual conference and trade show that brings together the gaming industry, a handful of themes emerge.
Last year, the chatter was about the exploding online sports gambling industry and the attendant concerns regarding the blitz of television advertising and the promotional free spending of online sportsbook operators.
At this year’s Global Gaming Expo, at the Venetian Expo Center, attendance has been bolstered by the return of international travel. Sports betting is legal in more than 30 states and the best online casino sites are producing strong tax revenue in the six states where they are legal and regulated.
Among the messages emphasized by Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, the industry’s umbrella trade group, was the ongoing threat posed by illegal gambling operations, both in the United States and offshore. Miller also talked about a continuing embrace of digital technology, especially cashless commerce, and pressing responsible gaming effort.
Those efforts cover not just sports betting but also iGaming, which offers online roulette, blackjack, slots and poker among other popular options.
Of those topics, the threats from illegal operators had the most attention-grabbing figures attached.
“Illegal and unregulated websites and machines pose a direct threat to our industry’s hard-earned social and regulatory license to operate,” Miller said in his keynote address Tuesday. “They prey on customers, especially the vulnerable and the underage. They don’t provide any consumer protections or invest a dime in responsible gaming.”
The websites Miller refers to are offshore bookmakers that continue to capture a huge portion of the sports gambling market. The machines are so-called skill-based machines often found in neighborhood taverns, restaurants and convenience stores.
Miller said AGA research produced the following findings:
Over the past year or so, the AGA has appealed to the Department of Justice to help curtail the illegal wagering industry. Members of Congress who represent gambling jurisdictions have also tried to direct the DOJ’s attention to the problem.
Miller called for more aggressive local law enforcement regarding the machines and for tech companies and media companies to stop aiding offshore operations and giving them oxygen to operate.
“We’re standing up and calling out illegal operators by name,” Miller said. “They’ve responded by harassing and attempting to intimidate us. Our answer? Bring it on!
“They can’t stand up to scrutiny in the court of public opinion … and they won’t stand up to scrutiny in a court of law.”