Responsible gaming, mergers and acquisitions, casino siting focus at Denver conference of lawmakers and regulators

July 11, 2023 1:13 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
July 11, 2023 1:13 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States kicks off a four-day summer conference Wednesday in Denver. It will tackle responsible gaming and hear a keynote address from the NFL’s first executive hire to focus solely on the sports-betting industry.

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David Highhill, the NFL’s general manager of sports betting responsible for driving the league’s efforts in game integrity and brand and fan engagement, will speak Friday at the Sheraton Denver Downtown.

The conference is expected to attract several hundred people, from state lawmakers, regulators, and casino industry executives to suppliers and attorneys, according to Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, which serves as executive director of the NCLGS.

“The relationship between gaming and sports is evolving quickly,” Pollock said, “and becoming much more secure and mutually beneficial through marketing and other programs. These industries can work with each other.”

As highlighted at its winter meeting in Las Vegas, NCLGS will also move forward with a resolution on responsible and problem gambling best practices to deal with the expansion of sports wagering and igaming across the country, Pollock said. NCLGS’s resolution by its Committee on Responsible Gaming has been underway for more than three years.

“The overarching theme is that the gaming industry is no longer multiple industries, but one industry with multiple verticals,” Pollock said. “Committee discussions will deal with similar issues. Responsible gaming will permeate every one, including the resolution discussed by the executive committee for adoption. It will advise states how to go about establishing, maintaining, and monitoring responsible-gaming protocols (including advertising).”

Pollock said this push is important for the future of responsible gaming, because gaming is an industry that crosses state lines and the ability of players to move or visit other jurisdictions.

“We hope states will adopt standards to address responsible gaming via funding, monitoring, and exclusion lists,” Pollock said. “If a player on an exclusion list goes from one state to another and isn’t on the list there, it defeats the purpose.”

The conference will also focus on helping legislators understand how the industry got to where it is today: about 1,000 casinos in 44 states and digital sports betting, ilottery, and igaming.

“One of the important points of how we got here was effective regulation built on the principle that a gaming license is a revocable privilege granted to those with honesty and integrity,” Pollock said. “We can never lose sight of that.”

Pollock said the industry’s growth over the next several years will focus on digital gaming. Land-based and online gambling can work together to ensure growth in both. “That involves tax policy and who gets licensed under what conditions. That’s where the issues will be over the next 18 to 24 months.”

The NCLGS Committee on Casinos will look at whether to locate casinos in urban, suburban, or rural areas. The question of determining the optimal location for new casinos has been vexing policymakers across the United States for nearly a half-century, Pollock said. Should casinos be located to revitalize urban centers or in rural areas and what can policymakers learn from past legislative debates to make the best decisions?

NCLGS Vice President Shawn Fluharty, a delegate from West Virginia who serves as minority whip, will moderate a panel discussion that includes Sean Demeule, vice president and general manager at Ameristar Casino Resort Spa Black Hawk and president of the Colorado Gaming Association; Alex Dixon, president and CEO of the Q Casino and CEO of the Dubuque Racing Association; and Elizabeth Suever, vice president of government relations at Bally’s.

The conference will also host a panel on mergers and acquisitions hosted by Rep. Kevin Ryan of Connecticut.
“You may see some significant activity as well as surprises,” Pollock said. “Look at the recent announcement regarding Aristocrat’s purchase of NeoGames. Suppliers and operators are moving across verticals. I don’t have a crystal ball on how it will precisely shake out, but I think those seeing the same things we are seeing recognize they have to spread their operations across multiple verticals.”

The session titled “Intersection of Regulatory Enforcement and Gaming Policy” will be moderated by Rep. David Muradian of Massachusetts. The panel of experts includes Dan Hartman, former director of gaming at the Colorado Division of Gaming; Jay McDaniel, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission; Sean McGuinness, a partner at the law firm Butler Snow LLP; and Charles Moore, executive director, of the Wyoming Gaming Commission.