Unity was the overarching theme of the keynote address delivered by American Gaming Association (AGA) President and CEO Bill Miller at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) Winter Conference produced by Spectrum Gaming Group.

Miller’s remarks touched on a variety of topics from US sports betting legislation to casino modernization, but all along there was a focus on harmony, on bringing the industry, as well as its non-industry partners together.

Gaming and the States

The first olive branch was extended toward the assembled legislators and regulators at NCLGS.

“NCLGS plays a critical role in ensuring casino gaming not only remains one of America’s most popular entertainment options – but that it also delivers for state economies and for taxpayers,” Miller said.  “You are vital partners – creating the legal and regulatory framework that allows us to operate, to provide consumers a responsible, enjoyable experience, and to contribute to communities.”

From there, Miller highlighted the positive impacts of gaming in local communities, citing three specific examples:

  1. The role gaming played in helping rebuild Biloxi, Mississippi post-Katrina.
  2. Washington, Pennsylvania – a town that had fallen on hard times and has seen gaming dollars provide local services and boost the economy.
  3. A 450,000 square foot rural health center made possible by the gaming proceeds of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.

“It’s not just about economic growth and jobs, although we contribute significantly in those areas, too,” said Miller. “It’s also the trust and partnership that only comes when you’re deeply engaged in the community.”

The third example was another olive branch, this time towards tribal operators. The example, as well as Miller combining commercial and tribal revenue to make a point later in his speech, is a good sign for the improving relationship between the commercial casino industry and tribal operators. The thawing of that relationship began under Miller’s immediate predecessor, Geoff Freeman.

Improving the Perception of Gaming a Top Priority

Unity was also on display when Miller spoke to the perception of gaming, and the need for the general public to see the gaming industry as a trusted community partner.

According to Miller, the gaming industry is increasingly seen as a positive among the public, with nearly 90 percent of Americans seeing the industry as a mainstream entertainment option.

Miller went on to point out the following facts:

  • 23 million more American adults went to a casino last year
  • nearly half of all adults say they will visit a casino in 2020
  • Gaming contributes $261 billion in total impact
  • supports nearly 2 million American workers (more jobs than the entire US airline industry)

“As our footprint continues to grow, local leaders and residents recognize the value we deliver to communities, Miller remarked.

“They see us as good neighbors, important employers, and reliable partners. 

“They discover that gaming makes communities better places to live and work. 

“They see us employing their friends, neighbors, family members – offering an opportunity for a rewarding career. 

“They realize we strengthen small businesses.”

Sports Betting Shines a Spotlight on the Industry and its Partners

Another core element of his keynote address was the need for everyone to get on the same page when it comes to responsible gaming.

“Legalized sports betting pushes gaming further into the spotlight, said Miller. “That’s why we’re working to make sports betting a showcase of our industry’s commitment to responsible gaming.”

Miller went on to say:

“Right after the Supreme Court invalidated PASPA, the AGA expanded our Responsible Gaming Code of Conduct to include sports betting. One year later, we rolled out a new industry code for the responsible marketing and advertising of sports wagering.

“More recently, the AGA launched an educational advertising campaign at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC to educate consumers on responsible gaming practices. We made this investment—and plan to extend it to other states—to protect the market and put responsible gaming front and center as sports betting rolls out.”

With the advancement of sports betting, the US gaming industry has seen an influx of new companies and collaborations between other industries.

“Since the Court’s ruling, nearly 70 commercial partnerships have been formed between gaming companies and newcomers to our business, Miller said. “While our new gaming partners certainly realize the commercial opportunities this brings, we’re going to make sure they all appreciate what a real commitment to responsible gaming looks like.”

He then ran down the list:

“All of us involved in sports betting – operators, leagues, technology providers, broadcasters, legislators, regulators – have a role to play in getting this right.

“Frankly, no one has a greater interest in responsible gaming than we do. Our business depends on it. Our customers count on it. And we are always looking for ways to improve it.” 

Commitment to Modernizing Gaming

After a year on the job, it’s very clear that Miller’s pet project is moving the industry towards cashless gaming.

“We showcase the 21st-century hospitality industry with cutting edge technology and world-class entertainment,” Miller began “We have millions of customers. Billions in revenue. So why is the casino floor one of the last cash-only businesses on earth – right down there with garage sales and flea markets?”

He went on to say that the casino industry hasn’t kept up with its customers, who are accustomed to paying for most things through their phones or debit cards — something they cannot do on a casino floor.

Miller noted that this would not only improve the customer experience, but it will also set the stage for the industry to implement the responsible gaming and oversight policies of the future.

“With today’s technology, we can empower consumers with easy tools to set budgets, time limits, and other safeguards that promote responsible gaming,” Miller said. “We can make it easier for law enforcement to identify customer backgrounds, the source of money being gambled, and early warning signs of potential criminal activity,” thanks to the digital paper trail left by cashless payments.

Miller concluded this part of his speech by saying, “Payment choice can be a win for consumers, a win for regulators, a win for responsible gaming, and a win for law enforcement.”

The Big Takeaway

There were plenty of other topics covered, but the theme of Miller’s remarks seemed pretty apparent: For the gaming industry to continue to grow economically and continue to evolve in terms of its social responsibility, everyone needs to work together and get on the same page.

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