NCLGS’ Jon Ford: Gaming industry is improving its diversity

Indiana State Senator and the President of the National Council of Legislators of Gaming States (NCLGS) Jon Ford has stated that diversity is improving across the US gambling industry.

Speaking on Martin Lycka’s Safe Bet Show ahead of the NCLGS Winter Meeting in Las Vegas from December 8-11, Ford noted how the gambling industry’s diversity is getting better.

The senator said: “We’re definitely seeing a movement towards more diversity from folks that are attending from well-diverse backgrounds that have been coming to participate, but also I think, what we’re seeing is some of this diversity inclusion has been regulated. 

“The industry in many states have obligations to diversify their workforce, their procurement habits. It’s really important that we have these discussions about diversity and inclusion, not just at the top of the industry, but also who the industry is procuring their provisions from locally is also a very important aspect.”

NCLGS importance

Diversity will be one of the topics discussed at the NCLGS winter meeting later this month. Attending NCLGS meetings helped Ford get involved in gambling in the first place, and alongside his entrepreneurial spirit, he approached Indiana leadership about taking charge of the state’s gaming modernization.

“Being a small business owner, I’m very entrepreneurial in my spirit. In the General Assembly, when we knew we were going to have to modernize gaming, I approached leadership about taking that role on. Nobody at the time, from Indiana, had been attending NCLGS,” he said.

“I was assigned that task and I really loved the environment, the free and open discussion in NCLGS, and just how other legislators helped me, from other states, learn about gaming and what the future of gaming held.

“There was really that focus on updating gaming here in the state of Indiana because, at the time, all of our casinos were on rivers. We had two casinos, but we had not really modernized gaming in 27 years.”

Since NCLGS is a regular meeting of state lawmakers to discuss gaming, Ford noted that its focus is to bring “as many facets of gaming together into an environment of learning and education from both from the industry and from fellow lawmakers and from regulators” for best practice discussions, how to move the industry forward, and help state legislators learn.

The NCLGS President added that such gatherings have helped following the repeal of PASPA in 2018 to launch sports betting in Indiana, as they learned from other states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“What’s great about what we have set up is, states can pick pieces from other states and put them together to create one great piece of legislation,” he stated.

“And to your point, some things that worked in New Jersey were not going to work here in Indiana, so we just didn’t take that language and we created some other language. 

“When you look at other states that are moving towards either sports wagering or igaming – Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado come to mind – many of their legislators and the regulators have taken part in NCLGS. 

“Seeing some of the successes of other states, and maybe some of the failures or things that could be improved on, they’re going to have better legislation because of that.”

US sports betting challenges

Sports betting will be on the agenda at NCLGS, and as to why sports betting has become so popular in the US, Ford replied that Americans love to interact with sports.

When Lycka followed up and questioned about sports betting’s biggest challenges, the senator highlighted protecting the low tax structures and the integrity of the game.

“When my fellow legislators and the public see these large handles, and then they see the low tax rate, I think there’s some assumption there that they’re missing out on a lot of funds. 

“I think protecting the low tax structures that we’ve seen across the country, sports wagering is going to be a challenge as we move forward because of those high handle amounts. As we all know, sports wagering, it’s a low lower margin product than other games. 

“I also think integrity. We always have to be concerned with the integrity of sports. Not necessarily the major leagues like football and baseball, but the other sports that are coming online to be bet on. We need to make sure of their integrity, and that rules and regulations are in place to make sure that the consumer is protected.

“I think that, as we expand, we’re going to continue to see the list of types of sports continue to be added to sports wagering.”

On the Safe Bet Show, Ford also spoke about igaming, the unregulated market, and responsible gambling. To watch the full Safe Bet Show, click here.