AGA’s Clark: Gaming industry’s soaring revenue, G2E attendance, highlight 2022

December 29, 2022 2:56 PM
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
December 29, 2022 2:56 PM

Remember when brick-and-mortar casinos were shuttered and gaming-industry revenue hit rock bottom due to the pandemic? It seems like a distant memory, a bad dream that didn’t actually happen.

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Part of the reason that the industry’s downturn in 2020 is viewed as an anomaly is the record-setting revenue of $57.2 billion in 2021. And in 2022, revenue is on pace to “be close to $100 billion for the first time,” said American Gaming Association Senior Vice President, Strategic Communications Casey Clark, calling the figure “remarkable” during an interview with CDC Gaming Reports.

“We saw increased consumer demand coming out of the pandemic that’s been sustained,” Clark said. “And operators have done a really good job in terms of serving those customers, be they a younger clientele or whoever might be interested in an omnichannel approach, where we’re offering gaming options of mobility, but also the world-class entertainment opportunities at the brick-and-mortar properties. There was always concern that those two things would compete with each other, but over the last couple of years, we’ve seen that they’re really complementary.”

Clark thinks one of the reasons gaming thrived when so many industries declined post-pandemic is the nature of the business. “If there’s one hallmark of the gaming industry for the last several decades, it’s that we’re really innovative,” Clark said. “We find ways to service our customers and bring new customers in for our products.”

Clark mentioned the integrated-resort model and the advent of mobile gaming – again, the newly embraced multichannel approach so many operators have embraced – as examples of gaming’s resilience.

“Our industry probably doesn’t get enough credit for how innovative we always are about creating experiences that our customers want,” Clark said.

Despite the robust bottom line, there are critical issues to address. Responsible gaming remains a key issue for the AGA, “fundamental to who we are and how we advance the interests of the industry,” Clark said.

The AGA’s “Have a Game Plan. Bet Responsibly” public-service campaign has been embraced by most major gaming operators. Clark believes that the industry needs to remain vigilant about “ensuring that people who want to be gambling are doing so responsibly. A lot needs to be done about who we are as a business and as a responsible business. It’s a story that needs to continue to be told and you’ve seen us work to ramp up that communication.”

The messaging about responsible gaming seems to be working. According to the AGA’s American Attitudes survey published in September 2022, 73% of past-year gamblers say the industry is committed to promoting responsible gaming and combating problem gambling. And 87% of people who gambled over the past years are aware of at least one responsible-gaming resource.

Another concern is the ongoing proliferation of illegal gaming markets, including offshore betting sites and unregulated gaming machines. Clark said these markets are not only complex and have been allowed to flourish in the U.S. for a long time, but are also estimated to be worth a half-trillion dollars.

“It’s been a pleasant surprise how responsive law enforcement at the federal and state levels has been to our efforts to ratchet up not just attention, but also enforcement of these people who prey on customers in vulnerable populations and don’t have the right kind of RG protections that licensed regulated operators do.”

Clark is especially pleased that the industry is again meeting in person at industry events. The Global Gaming Expo, presented by the AGA in Las Vegas in October, attracted nearly 25,000 attendees and 350 exhibitors. It was Clark’s sixth G2E and, by his estimation, the best in recent years, even better than pre-pandemic expos in at least one important way.

“It used to be that G2E was the place to go and everybody wanted to be there,” Clark said. “But last year, everyone was refocused on (business). And it helped enable an improvement of the marketplace that was there. … I’m not underselling the business of getting people together. I think it’s critically important. But the marketplace aspect of how many deals are done, what it looks like for exhibitors, what it looks like for attendees, to me that felt stronger than it did pre-pandemic and grew on the back of what we enabled last year with the first post-COVID in-person show.”