G2E: AGA President Bill Miller cautiously optimistic about gaming industry’s growth, prospects

October 11, 2022 7:00 PM
Photo: Bill Miller President and CEO of the American Gaming Association/CDC Gaming Reports G2E 2022
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
October 11, 2022 7:00 PM
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
  • United States

Anyone looking for proof that the Global Gaming Expo is on track to return to pre-pandemic levels Monday needed only to walk the halls of the Venetian Expo Center in Las Vegas.

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There were lines for coffee shops and restaurants. Lines for the opening sessions and keynote addresses, especially the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day featuring former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens.

The Expo floor thrummed with nervous energy as crews made last-minute adjustments to exhibitors’ elaborate booths and display,

During his welcome address Tuesday morning, American Gaming Association President Bill Miller noted the difference from 2021’s event. “While last year I said we’re back, this year, just look around. We’re really back!” Miller told an overflow standing-room-only audience. “We’re close to pre-pandemic attendance and the floor is packed with exhibitors. You can feel the energy. We’ve been through a hard couple of years, but today our industry is standing strong, thanks to all of you.”

Miller’s address highlighted the gaming-industry’s blockbuster deals of the past year, including the Sands being sold to Vici Properties, MGM Resorts purchase of the Cosmopolitan, and San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality’s acquisition of the Palms Casino Resort.

He also noted the passing of Sheldon Adelson, the founder and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, as “the industry’s greatest visionary,” and Nevada Senator Harry Reid as “our industry’s greatest champion. They laid the foundation for today’s success and we’re deeply indebted to Mr. Adelson and Senator Reid for their contributions to our industry, setting us up for this moment,” Miller said. “We’re never going to forget them.”

The gaming industry amassed record revenue of $53 billion in 2021 and, Miller noted, “Last year’s record performance was fueled by pent-up demand. This year, we proved it wasn’t a fluke.

The industry again seems poised for a record-breaking year. Commercial-gaming revenue reached $34.27 billion through July, a 15.5% year-over-year increase.

But Miller isn’t quite ready to do a celebratory end-zone dance a la the Las Vegas Raiders. Concerns remain as new technologies emerge, Miller said, noting the challenges of cryptocurrency, blockchain, and the metaverse.

“The truth is, they probably raise more questions than they answer,” Miller said. “But that never stopped us before. Just as we learned when it came to digital payments, legalizing sports betting, and expanding our leadership in responsibility, if we get in front of emerging issues, we can shape them to fuel our growth.”

As he has in the past, Miller insisted that the greatest dangers to the industry are illegal and unregulated markets. He noted that these threats prey on customers, “especially the vulnerable and the underage. They don’t provide any consumer protections or invest a dime in responsible gaming,” Miller said. “They’re a threat to local communities and open the door to other criminal activity. And they have an unfair advantage in the marketplace— they ignore the regulatory standards we work so hard to uphold.

“For all of these reasons, we’re taking the illegal and unregulated market on with every weapon at our disposal,” Miller said, noting that the AGA is engaging the Department of Justice, Congress, and state governors and state legislatures to combat illegal practices.

“Illegal gambling costs communities an estimated $4 billion in taxes annually,” Miller added. “We’re standing up and calling out illegal operators by name. They’ve responded by harassing and attempting to intimidate us. Our answer? Bring it on!”

Miller also emphasized the industry’s commitment to responsible gaming, noting the AGA’s ongoing plans to meet with advocates, researchers, regulators, and industry leaders to address RG issues.