AGA’s Miller Kicks Off Virtual G2E, Says US Gaming Strong Despite COVID-19

Posted on: October 27, 2020, 11:29h. 

Last updated on: October 28, 2020, 11:25h.

Even as COVID-19 has brought a lot of uncertainty to the country, the economy, and the gaming industry in America, the head of the country’s leading trade organization for casinos opened the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) and said he sees a bright future for its members.

G2E Miller
American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller kicks off the 2020 Global Gaming Expo virtually. (Image: AGA)

“We’ve been through a lot of tough challenges before, and we’ve always emerged stronger on the other side,” said American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller Tuesday in his state of the industry speech.

Because of the coronavirus, the annual showcase for the gaming industry could not take place at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Las Vegas and had to move to a virtual format. Miller gave his remarks at AGA’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

The hope is that G2E, which draws more than 25,000 professionals annually, and other large events can return to Vegas next year.

At the peak of the crisis, all of the nearly 1,000 US casinos were forced to shut down. About 90 percent of the commercial and tribal venues have since reopened across the country, but with capacity restrictions and a reduction in the number of gaming seats available.

Miller noted that while some regional casinos have surpassed pre-COVID revenue levels, the pandemic has still brought a significant cost to the industry and the cities and states that rely on casino revenues. Detroit lost $4.2 million in tax revenue each week its casinos were closed, and Pennsylvania and Maryland combined lost more than $530 million.

US Gaming Enjoys Strong Public Support

Getting back to normal, or as close as possible in a post-COVID world, will take time, Miller said. It’ll also be uneven and be contingent on several issues that the casinos can’t control, such as the development of a vaccine, when social distancing restrictions can be eased, and when more people feel comfortable traveling.

But the things we do control provide reasons for that gaming can and will rebound to the historic highs we were enjoying before the pandemic,” he said.

Among those positives is the public’s support for gaming. Earlier this week, in advance of G2E, the AGA released a study showing almost 70 percent of Americans believe casino gaming generates a positive benefit for the economy. Overall, half of all American adults now hold a favorable view of the industry, compared to just 31 percent in 2009.

2021 AGA Goals Unveiled at G2E

As for the year ahead, the goals Miller laid out for 2021 sounded very similar to the ones he mentioned in his speech at G2E last year, and while the three goals were carried over, the industry has made some significant progress on all of them.

Miller said the AGA wants to add to the choir of supporters it has on Capitol Hill. He noted the revival of the Congressional Gaming Caucus was a good step. In addition, the industry scored some key victories, which included getting the Small Business Association to give small gaming businesses access to Paycheck Protection Program loans, which helped them stay afloat and kept workers from the unemployment line.

Now, the group wants to see the industry get more COVID relief and get liability protection from lawsuits. The AGA will also fight to reduce the slot tax reporting threshold and repeal excise taxes casinos and sportsbooks pay.

Payment modernization has taken some positive steps as well. Miller noted Nevada and Pennsylvania have already approved regulations allowing digital payments in casinos, and other states will soon follow. The technology is also being used in tribal casinos.

“All of these innovations will help limit the spread of COVID-19, and accelerate gaming’s modernization,” he said.

Lastly, Miller noted the growth that has taken place with sports betting. There are now 22 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized sports wagering, and the AGA will keep endorsing efforts to expand legalization elsewhere, too.

The AGA said it will put its efforts to ensure governments create regulatory structures that make legal products competitive to the offshore books and other illegal bookies taking bets. That includes establishing reasonable tax structures and allowing mobile applications.