AGA President makes rousing keynote G2E address but warns of need for greater responsibility

Image source: Chris Murphy SBC

American Gaming Association (AGA) President and CEO Bill Miller gave a ‘state of the nation’ address to delegates gathered in Las Vegas this week for G2E 2021, citing the theme of this year’s expo as one of resilience.

“A year ago, this hall was empty,” he said. “Even casinos that were open operated under restrictions designed to prevent the spread of the virus. The result: steep, unprecedented declines in every industry category. 

“One year later, we’ve come roaring back with the best results in our industry’s history. In the first seven months of 2021, commercial gaming generated nearly $30bn in revenue – about the same as the industry’s total revenue for all of 2020. And we’re not just ahead of last year – we’re on record pace.” 

“Compared to the first seven months of 2019 – which was our best year ever – commercial gaming revenue is up. Slots, sports, and igaming are all way ahead. Tribal gaming is also coming back strong. And suppliers’ sales pipelines are filling up.” 

Talking more about the economic upturn, Miller added: “In Maryland, our rebound has closed a major deficit in the state’s education trust fund, with our contributions running 12% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“In Oklahoma, state revenue from tribal gaming is setting new records – a key signal of that state’s overall economic health. In Michigan, according to the city of Detroit’s CFO, gaming’s revival has stabilized the city’s budget through increased tax revenue and employment.” 

Adopting a more cautionary tone, Miller turned to the topic of the industry’s commitment to responsible gaming. He noted: “Our Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering set a high, industry-wide standard that has informed and influenced leagues, operators, and media companies, and even made its way into Arizona’s recently enacted sports betting regulations. 

“And we launched our Have a Game Plan, Bet Responsibly public service campaign to educate fans on responsible sports wagering. Momentum continues to build on this important initiative with an impressive list of campaign partners. Such efforts create a strong foundation. But as sports betting grows, so does our responsibility.”

Citing increased scrutiny from state regulators and the media around advertising saturation and aggressive promotions, he warned: “We have to get this right. Because we’ve seen what happens when it goes wrong. Italy banned sports betting advertising. In Spain, sponsorships between teams and operators are prohibited and gambling ads can only air between 1am and 5am. In the UK, two-thirds of adults support banning sports betting advertising altogether.” 

“I know our commitment to responsibility is real. We need to ensure our actions reflect those commitments if we want to build a sustainable marketplace. But the gaming industry cannot and should not do this alone. Every stakeholder, especially our partners who are new to the gaming business— sports leagues, teams, media companies— they need to understand their role and do their part too.” 

Protecting the consumer, Miller advised, means creating and maintaining a regulated marketplace. He said: “And that means continuing our fight against illegal gambling. At the AGA, we’ve partnered with the FBI to crack down on illegal operators and direct bettors to legal options. 

“Just last week they announced a PSA campaign to educate customers including our Have A Game Plan campaign. We’re working with state AGs, sheriffs, and local law enforcement to stop the spread of illegal slot machines and to take on companies trying to skirt the strict regulations that we have to follow.” 

Miller concluded his address with the announcement that next year’s G2E will include a new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Leadership Award to recognize outstanding industry leaders.

He stated: “We will celebrate our companies that demonstrate gaming’s commitment and deliver results. It’s been 720 days since we last gathered here in Las Vegas. Yet, the industry has never been more united, more determined, or better positioned for success. Gaming has never been more popular with the public. 

“Our social and economic contributions have never been more widely recognized or more highly valued. And none of this happened by accident. You made it happen. Your drive to provide world-class experiences. Your commitment to operate with responsibility and integrity. And your creativity in delivering for guests throughout the pandemic was inspiring. 

“You brought the casino experience to customers locked down and stuck at home. You continued gaming’s legacy of innovation, and it’s on full display on the show floor. You reopened safely and earned our guests’ confidence. And because you did these things, our lights came back on – and they’ve stayed on. 

“I’ve never been more proud to be part of this great industry. Or more excited to be back in Las Vegas for G2E. I’m proud of how we battled over the last 18 months and so excited about our future. Thanks for being here.”