While not nearly as flashy or extravagant as Las Vegas’ Global Gaming Expo (G2E), Atlantic City’s yearly gambling conference is still a marquee event featuring a who’s who of industry leaders.
The East Coast Gaming Congress & NextGen Gaming Forum has a reputation for thought-provoking panels and forward-looking discussions providing insight and perspective on where the industry stands and where it may be heading.
West Coast gambling at East Coast Gaming Congress
The gambling industry will have plenty to talk about when the 25th annual ECGC kicks off this week at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
Both U.S. commercial and tribal casinos set revenue records in 2021. Brick-and-mortar casino operators benefitted from a post-COVID-19 surge while iGaming continued to grow and the number of states with legal sports betting expanded.
And yet, the gambling industry still has opportunities to reach even more potential customers. The country’s three most-populous states — California, Texas and Florida — are still without legal sports betting or online casino.
California is likely to come up at some point during ECGC but these three panels are particularly relevant to the Golden State’s gaming industry.
Sports betting varies from state to state
ECGC is leading off the 2022 convention with a home run. Thursday’s first breakout panel, “Sports Betting: Which Model Is Working Best?,” explores the 31 U.S. jurisdictions (30 states and Washington D.C.) where the practice is now legal.
Some states only allow sports betting at a retail location, such as a casino or racetrack. Others permit online and mobile sports bets. A handful offers both, including the five with the highest reported sportsbook handles, revenues and state tax collection.
California voters will be faced with in-person (Proposition 26) and online sports betting (Proposition 27) options on Election Day.
Of the six states where voters have previously approved legal sports betting since 2018, California is the only one to present two ballot options.
More often, state legislators enact laws and regulations for sports betting. California lawmakers made several attempts to legalize sports betting but, ultimately, failed to garner enough support.
What will the experts think about California’s unique approach?
Responsible gaming in California
At the core of any debate centered around gambling is an ethical responsibility. ECGC’s “Is Gaming Growing Responsibly?” will follow Thursday’s keynote luncheon address from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
The 50-minute panel will focus on whether legislators, regulators and operators are providing adequate resources to problem-gambling programs. The role of technology and the scope of research in the era of rising online gambling behavior will also be a topic of conversation.
Opponents of California’s Prop 27 have characterized online sports gambling as problematic, particularly to young people. Online sportsbook operators contend their products include numerous safeguards, including self-exclusion tools and two-factor authorization to prevent unintended access from minors.
Responsible gaming is critical anywhere gambling is happening, and California is no exception.
Inside baseball at ECGC
Legal online casino has only been available in the U.S. since 2013. Single-game sports betting outside of Nevada only began in 2018.
Missteps and miscalculations were bound to happen as more and more companies entered these two relatively new markets. Huge promotional spending and expensive advertising campaigns have backfired on operators in states with higher tax rates.
At the same time, those segments’ impact on brick-and-mortar casinos continues to evolve. New Jersey and Atlantic City casinos are a perfect case study, as the Garden State was the first to adopt iGaming and among the first with online sportsbooks.
“Analyze This” at ECGC will break down where some operators misjudged new markets. It will also look at how retail casinos are faring in the digital age.
The Golden State is a proverbial golden goose for gambling operators, as California tribal casinos have shown. Online gambling operators will eventually make their way to the West Coast. The only real questions are when and what lessons they will bring with them when California online casinos get up and running.