After its worst year in history, the U.S. gaming industry is roaring back by every measurement, American Gaming Association president and CEO Bill Miller said Tuesday.
Revenue is above the record pace of 2019, suppliers’ sales are increasing, and the commitment to promoting responsible gaming and social awareness is strong, he said.
“The industry has never been more united. We’ve never been more determined or, really, better positioned for success,” Miller said in a keynote address before the opening of the trade-floor exhibition at the Global Gaming Expo. “Gaming has never been more popular with the public.”
The optimism extends into next year. Miller cited AGA’s first Gaming CEO Outlook, released Tuesday, which found that 71 percent of gaming leaders anticipate increases in new hiring, 63 percent see wage growth, and 39 percent expect capital investment. Almost half of the CEOs surveyed expect better business conditions next year, says the study, compiled by Oxford Economics. In addition, 75 percent of gaming suppliers expect sales of replacement units to increase and 63 percent expect higher sales of new units.
The study also identified short-term impediments to growth: 71 percent of respondents cited supply-chain issues, 63 percent see continued labor force shortages, 46 percent worry about continued consumer health concerns, and 38 percent fear lagging demand for meetings and events.
Oxford got survey responses from 24 executives of gaming companies, equipment suppliers, and igaming or sports- betting operators. AGA plans to conduct CEO Outlook surveys every six months.
Miller said the industry must live up to the increased responsibilities that come with success and expansion, especially amid the rapid growth of legal sports betting in the United States.
“As sports betting grows, so does our responsibility. Scrutiny from state regulators and the media is increasing around advertising saturation and aggressive promotions. And we have to get this right. Because we’ve seen what happens when it goes wrong.”
For example, Italy banned sports betting advertising; Spain bans sponsorships between teams and operators, and limits broadcast gambling advertising to between 1 and 5 a.m.; two-thirds of adults in the United Kingdom support a total ban on sports betting advertising.
“Our commitment to responsibility is real. We need to ensure that our actions reflect those commitments,” Miller said. “But the gaming industry can’t and shouldn’t be doing this alone. Every stakeholder, especially our partners who are new to the gaming business – sports leagues, teams, media companies – need to understand their role and they need to do their part.”
Gaming industry efforts, such as the Have a Game Plan responsible-gaming campaign and cooperating with law-enforcement agencies to shut down illegal gambling operations, foster a regulated marketplace, he said. The move toward digital gaming payments improves the consumer experience, while helping law enforcement fight money laundering.
All that is still not enough, Miller said.
“The role of business and society is being re-examined and our value is being measured in different ways,” he said. Improving diversity, equity, and inclusion among gaming corporate ranks is essential. As part of that effort, he announced that AGA will make an annual award honoring ESG (Environmental-Social-Governance) leadership, with the first selection to be announced at the 2022 G2E.
Miller said employment and corporate diversity can become a strength of the gaming industry and a model for others.
“This isn’t just a strong foundation,” Miller said. “It’s our launching pad. Working together, we can feel even greater growth.”