LAS VEGAS — The gaming industry just opened its first in-person convention since the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked financial havoc on the casino business through most of 2020 and even into the first few months of 2021. The event is happening, fittingly enough, in Las Vegas.
The Global Gaming Expo (G2E) began Monday at the Venetian Expo (until recently, the Sands Expo and Convention Center), bringing together stakeholders across the spectrum of gaming. Just a few years ago, symposiums and keynote speeches almost entirely centered around the bricks-and-mortar gaming industry, namely casinos. Today, discussions are just as likely to encompass the digital side of gambling, whether that’s sports betting or online casino gaming.
In an odd twist, while the pandemic dealt a severe blow to conventional gambling as physical casinos were shuttered for months at a time, online gaming gained traction. People everywhere found themselves staying close to home — and in front of their computers.
A large part of G2E is educational symposiums dealing with the vast array of gaming issues. Among those topics was the outlook for iGaming.
IGaming is online gambling that allows users, either with a computer or a mobile device, to participate in real-money casino-style gambling, such as slot machines and blackjack and other table games.
Only a handful of states have legalized iGaming; among the largest are New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Online casino gaming presents the gambling industry with opportunities and challenges that Howard Glaser, global head of government affairs and legislative counsel for Scientific Games, calls “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
The “good,” Glaser points out, is that iGaming can generate substantial cash for operators and the state governments that greenlight iGaming. In New Jersey, the most mature online gaming market in America, online casinos and poker rooms generated $113.2 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR) in August (an increase of 29.0% from August 2020). So far in 2021, the internet GGR in Jersey is $866.1 and could break $1 billion for the year.
The “bad” is convincing lawmakers that iGaming is palatable, Glaser said. Sports gambling, Glaser pointed out, can be seen as mainly about “sports” rather than “betting.” That’s not the case with pure online casino gambling.
And the “ugly” is that the gaming industry hasn’t come together with a cohesive strategy for addressing concerns about iGaming.
Connecticut is the most recent state to go online with gambling, starting with mobile sports betting which is set to launch this week, but online casino gambling is soon to follow. The state launched retail sports betting last week.
Anika Howard, vice president brand market and digital for the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, discussed her company’s successful approach to convincing policy makers regarding iGaming.
“It’s a continuing process,” Howard said. “It’s a commitment to responsible gaming and it’s an education around the technology to make regulators feel comfortable that they’ll be able to regulate, and that it’ll be a safe environment for the players.”