I had the pleasure of attending NCLGS in Orlando Florida this year(2016). I have attended a number of "Gaming/Gambling" related conferences over the years but had never attended NCLGS. I was pleasantly surprised by the agenda, participants and the dialogue that ensued during the conference.
NCLGS is an extremely important and influential group composed of legislators, lobbyists and gaming regulators form around the country(USA). In addition to regulators the conference had representation from gaming content providers, land based casino operators, native american casino operators, iGaming operators and game content providers.
The 2016 conference's focus can be broken down into a number of broad categories.
Commercial Land Based Casino Health And Welfare - This group excludes the Native American casino's which will be addressed later. It is composed of the Classic Atlantic City and Vegas land based operators. These are the entities that helped to define what gambling regulation is today and are still the primary focus for land based regulation in the USA. It is clear from regulators and casino operators that these entities show great promise as demonstrated by Atlantic City's recent gaming table revenue growth and challenged as demonstrated by Las Vegas flagging gaming table revenue.
Vegas - The gaming table revenue in Vegas is falling and so are the numbers of people engaging in gambling in Vegas. Two factors play a role in this decline.
Alternate Entertainment - Vegas has done a good job in creating a "destination" resort environment for tourists form around the world. The strip is filled with throngs of people walking the strip. The shows are packed and in some cases the trendy restaurants and clubs. However the casino floor for the most part is only partially occupied. So what are these people doing in Vegas if they are not gambling? It appears that the alternate entertainment in the form of shows, restaurant, rides, etc. is drawing the crowds and not the casino floor.
Changing Demographics And The Millennials - The conference spend a significant amount of time pondering the impact of the millennials on and off the gaming floor. There was clearly a consensus amongst the conference presenters that the gaming "content" currently offered by land based casino's is clearly off the mark when it comes to the millennial demographic. This consensus generated a number of ideas on what the gaming content should be to improve the likelihood that millennials will be encouraged to play gambling content oriented games.
Socially/Interactive Games - It is clear based on the success of console and "social casino" games that social or at least interactive games are what this demographic group prefers to engage in. Of course, poker is the ultimate and traditional form of social gambling. However, there are many more games that could be based on current console gaming platforms that could be adapted to a gambling content.
Skill Gaming And Fantasy Sports - Much time was spent on the subject of fantasy sports and its alleged categorization as a skill game. One can argue both sides of this debate. However, these debates are almost irrelevant because it is clear that the combination of social and skill gaming is clearly a winner when it comes to attracting millennials to Las Vegas and other land based operations.
Online/Internet Gaming And the Poker Conundrum - The online poker juggernaut continues to plaque and perplex the regulated gambling authorities and industry. How can you possibly outlaw the all american past time and online gambling in general. There was direct reference to New Jerseys' growing success in these online domains. Undeniably these sectors have to be addressed by US gambling regulators if there is to be any future for "gambling" in America. You can not hide your head in the preverbal ground and ignore this. The most paradoxical aspect of ignoring the online domain from a regulatory perspective is that this approach provides opportunity for illegal online gambling operators.
Native American Indian Land Based and Regional Casinos - The most interesting, amazing, uplifting and in some cases heart breaking subjects at the conference was the advent and growth of the native american indian land based casino initiative. The native american representatives made a compelling case for how important these casino's are for their constituents. They provide funding for schools, housing, jobs and healthcare that would otherwise never happen without gambling revenues. Essentially, a very real positive use of funds generated by their land based casino initiatives.
Overall, NCLGS was an honest and informative get together to discuss legal gambling in the USA. I commend the professionalism of the participants and the honest dialogue that accompanied the conference. The conference also highlighted serious issues that regulators and existing land based operator face. The world is changing in terms of gaming and gambling content and the existing operators, although aware of these challenges, appear to be either slow to address them or in a bit of denial about the future of both land based gambling trends and iGaming.
Kevin Flood is the CEO of Gameinlane, Inc. Gameinlane has developed, launched and operated Internet gambling sites in Europe. The company engages with land based casino operators, online gambling operators, social casino operator and game developers to assist them in determining their strategy and implementation of game content. Gameinlane develops "social and real money" casino games for third parties. Kevin has worked for and with US land based casino operators helping them evaluate social casino and iGaming platforms for the purpose of joint ventures and acquisitions. Kevin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.