Tag: Industry

Could The Impact Of COVID-19 On The Gaming Industry Spell Wire Act’s Demise?

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Fifty-nine years after the Wire Act was passed and 16 months after a Department of Justice re-interpretation of it sent a spasm through the burgeoning US gaming industry, stakeholders and entrepreneurs continue to debate over the extent to which the 20th-century law will impact their high-tech business opportunity.

Such was the case at the SBC Digital Summit, with Wayne Kimmel of SeventySix Capital sounding bullish on the Kennedy Administration’s anti-mob law being “done in the next couple of years.” But Adam Greenblatt, CEO of Roar Digital, pushed back as hard as cordiality would allow in telepresence.

Both Greenblatt and Kimmel appeared as part of a panel entitled “M & A and Investing in Sports Betting Companies.” During the panel, the Wire Act was only one of the topics on which Kimmel and Greenblatt disagreed.

The whole discussion spurred a bit of a debate on the pandemic’s potential impact on entrepreneurship in the US gaming industry and the controversial Wire Act.

COVID-19’s potential impact and where the Wire Act comes in

Kimmel believes COVID-19’s hammering impact on land-based gaming has revealed an opportunity for mobile and online business. And the Wire Act, depending on the interpretation, hampers that opportunity.

“I think a lot of the regulations, the laws, the blockers, the things that are happening or that we have in the United States right now, I think some of those things are going to go away,” he asserted. “I’ve been out there talking about the Wire Act and thinking that … I’m sorry, that’s done in the next couple of years.

“My team and I at SeventySix Capital, we believe that’s gone and I think that’s going to really, really affect a lot of players in this industry and will allow more innovation and allow more entrepreneurship. So, believing those kinds of things, looking out to the future and not just saying the world’s going to be like it is right now – because no one would have believed that all these casinos and sportsbooks would be dark – I mean, who could have ever imagined this? And I think coming out of this, other types of things are going to happen and that’s where I believe a lot of the opportunity will come from.”

Countered Greenblatt: “If you’re right and we see the end of the Wire Act, I’m taking us out for dinner and we’re drinking the most expensive champagne, my friend. But I can’t see it.”

Litigation will ultimately determine which is correct.

Kimmel: many new opportunities for entrepreneurs

Founded by Kimmel in 1999, SeventySix Capital specializes in sports tech venture capital, according to its website, including multiple gaming projects. Roar is the global collaboration between MGM Resorts International and GVC Holdings.

Kimmel compared the nascent American sports betting industry with the Internet landscape of the early ’90s — and how these opportunities of the time period made bold-thinkers into billionaires.

“There was this opportunity,” Kimmel said, “where entrepreneurs came in and really disrupted the way we not only did business but the way we lived and the way we do things. Similar to what happened then, I believe that same kind of thing is going to happen here within sports betting.

“I believe that there will be a lot of M and A’s, but at the same time there will be players that will come out of nowhere that you have never heard of before. You’ll see there will be the next Steve Jobs or the next Mark Zuckerberg, there will be those types of players in the industry.”

Greenblatt’s counter-argument: lots of hurdles for newcomers to break through

In a business environment increasingly laden with consolidation and the emergence of massive alliances such as the just-completed Flutter Entertainment acquisition of Stars Group, start-ups and mid-level players will struggle, Greenblatt countered. He seemed to be casting an eye on the players who didn’t come out of the dot.com bubble as well as Jobs and Zuckerberg.

“I disagree, actually, with some of the views previously expressed not because they are not logical, but because they underestimate the role of compliance and the impact of state-by-state as this market rolls out,” Greenblatt said. “Whereas in the early stages of the Internet what, as a global collective, we were doing was breaking new grounds enabled by technology, the US is just really a new geographical frontier where that really mature industry is able to penetrate, to roll out.

“It’s not like there is no Amazon. We have Amazons in our space. We’ve got the GVCs and the Bet365s and the Flutters and to unseat any of those will take number one, any enormous amount of capital. In fact, I don’t think it’s possible.”

Establishing the resources to win at compliance at a state level and quickly applying “product, marketing tools, affiliate tools, KYC tools, responsible gaming tools” without friction — as well as high-level corporate rivals — will be a daunting task for newcomers, Greenblatt added.

“I think it is not possible in this generation for a startup to unseat the global market leaders. I think M and A will take place at the very highest level, as we’ve seen now with Stars and Flutter, there will be some vertical integration taking place as we’ve seen with [DraftKings] and [DK and SB Tech], he said. “But, I think to bring together a collection of disparate assets or grow from grassroots into something which can compete for leadership, I think, is too difficult.”

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Could The Impact Of COVID-19 On The Gaming Industry Spell Wire Act’s Demise?

[ad_1]

Fifty-nine years after the Wire Act was passed and 16 months after a Department of Justice re-interpretation of it sent a spasm through the burgeoning US gaming industry, stakeholders and entrepreneurs continue to debate over the extent to which the 20th-century law will impact their high-tech business opportunity.

Such was the case at the SBC Digital Summit, with Wayne Kimmel of SeventySix Capital sounding bullish on the Kennedy Administration’s anti-mob law being “done in the next couple of years.” But Adam Greenblatt, CEO of Roar Digital, pushed back as hard as cordiality would allow in telepresence.

Both Greenblatt and Kimmel appeared as part of a panel entitled “M & A and Investing in Sports Betting Companies.” During the panel, the Wire Act was only one of the topics on which Kimmel and Greenblatt disagreed.

The whole discussion spurred a bit of a debate on the pandemic’s potential impact on entrepreneurship in the US gaming industry and the controversial Wire Act.

COVID-19’s potential impact and where the Wire Act comes in

Kimmel believes COVID-19’s hammering impact on land-based gaming has revealed an opportunity for mobile and online business. And the Wire Act, depending on the interpretation, hampers that opportunity.

“I think a lot of the regulations, the laws, the blockers, the things that are happening or that we have in the United States right now, I think some of those things are going to go away,” he asserted. “I’ve been out there talking about the Wire Act and thinking that … I’m sorry, that’s done in the next couple of years.

“My team and I at SeventySix Capital, we believe that’s gone and I think that’s going to really, really affect a lot of players in this industry and will allow more innovation and allow more entrepreneurship. So, believing those kinds of things, looking out to the future and not just saying the world’s going to be like it is right now – because no one would have believed that all these casinos and sportsbooks would be dark – I mean, who could have ever imagined this? And I think coming out of this, other types of things are going to happen and that’s where I believe a lot of the opportunity will come from.”

Countered Greenblatt: “If you’re right and we see the end of the Wire Act, I’m taking us out for dinner and we’re drinking the most expensive champagne, my friend. But I can’t see it.”

Litigation will ultimately determine which is correct.

Kimmel: many new opportunities for entrepreneurs

Founded by Kimmel in 1999, SeventySix Capital specializes in sports tech venture capital, according to its website, including multiple gaming projects. Roar is the global collaboration between MGM Resorts International and GVC Holdings.

Kimmel compared the nascent American sports betting industry with the Internet landscape of the early ’90s — and how these opportunities of the time period made bold-thinkers into billionaires.

“There was this opportunity,” Kimmel said, “where entrepreneurs came in and really disrupted the way we not only did business but the way we lived and the way we do things. Similar to what happened then, I believe that same kind of thing is going to happen here within sports betting.

“I believe that there will be a lot of M and A’s, but at the same time there will be players that will come out of nowhere that you have never heard of before. You’ll see there will be the next Steve Jobs or the next Mark Zuckerberg, there will be those types of players in the industry.”

Greenblatt’s counter-argument: lots of hurdles for newcomers to break through

In a business environment increasingly laden with consolidation and the emergence of massive alliances such as the just-completed Flutter Entertainment acquisition of Stars Group, start-ups and mid-level players will struggle, Greenblatt countered. He seemed to be casting an eye on the players who didn’t come out of the dot.com bubble as well as Jobs and Zuckerberg.

“I disagree, actually, with some of the views previously expressed not because they are not logical, but because they underestimate the role of compliance and the impact of state-by-state as this market rolls out,” Greenblatt said. “Whereas in the early stages of the Internet what, as a global collective, we were doing was breaking new grounds enabled by technology, the US is just really a new geographical frontier where that really mature industry is able to penetrate, to roll out.

“It’s not like there is no Amazon. We have Amazons in our space. We’ve got the GVCs and the Bet365s and the Flutters and to unseat any of those will take number one, any enormous amount of capital. In fact, I don’t think it’s possible.”

Establishing the resources to win at compliance at a state level and quickly applying “product, marketing tools, affiliate tools, KYC tools, responsible gaming tools” without friction — as well as high-level corporate rivals — will be a daunting task for newcomers, Greenblatt added.

“I think it is not possible in this generation for a startup to unseat the global market leaders. I think M and A will take place at the very highest level, as we’ve seen now with Stars and Flutter, there will be some vertical integration taking place as we’ve seen with [DraftKings] and [DK and SB Tech], he said. “But, I think to bring together a collection of disparate assets or grow from grassroots into something which can compete for leadership, I think, is too difficult.”

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US Sports Betting Industry Will Recover

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The future of the American sports betting industry remains promising, perhaps even record-setting next year, said gaming industry analyst and SpringOwl Asset Management CEO Jason Ader.

This year, though, amid a COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down sports with cascading detriment to sportsbooks and sports networks, is about mitigating damage and learning lessons on how to safeguard that future. This applies to sports leagues, broadcasters, gaming companies and state legislators.

Among the means is for states without legalized online gaming and casinos and online poker to get it immediately, says Ader in an expansive PlayUSA interview,

The industry will come back, he said. That includes Las Vegas, which will be priced to move, he said, whenever coronavirus allows.

Q: How is the sports betting and gambling industry doing to respond and maintain itself during the COVID-19 shutdown?

JASON ADER: I think it’s been very tough. I mean, the world has much bigger problems than gambling. The whole sports and broadcast industry has been turned upside down. And from that perspective, there’s just no sports, so there’s just no sports betting at all. And you can see, there’s been some effort to find obscure sports and even eSports, the NBA obviously doing eSports with some of the top players, but the lack of sports betting has been pretty devastating for the online gambling companies.

I don’t know what more I can say about the land-based companies. I mean, they’re closed. I think it’s pretty staggering and I think this number may be low, but I do think that the unemployment rate in Las Vegas was pretty close to 50%. They’re the people who work in the casinos, the people who service the casino, the limo drivers and the companies that do the linen washing. It’s just all completely out of work and just devastating to the economy and obviously devastating for the state. [Gaming] is a source of tax revenue which is important without a state income tax [in Nevada].

The gaming industry has been a pretty good partner to the municipalities that have legalized it.

I think just about every state that has some form of gaming, it’s a top-five – and it may even be top three- – contributor in terms of overall state revenue after obviously sales tax and income tax.

Is this the biggest challenge the industry has faced?

At this moment in time, it’s as bad as we’ve ever seen and because so much of the infrastructure is closed and honestly, I don’t think it’s clear to anybody when things will reopen and what life will be like.

Is everybody going to be rushing to Las Vegas to sit at a crowded blackjack table or sweaty nightclub or busy convention center? I don’t think right away. I mean that’s something that will take a little bit of an adjustment.

I do have some fascinating statistics that I’m gonna share with you: Italy is kind of the worst-hit market in the world, maybe, in terms of death and shutdown, certainly one of the worst and still heavily concentrated. For the month of March, online casino was up 30%. Three-zero. Online poker cash games were up 89% and tournament poker revenues were up 123%. So that’s pretty amazing online statistics. So one of the things I’ve been thinking about, will land-based companies who’ve been forced to close go out and start buying online companies? You see statistics like this and they’d be crazy not to.

I mean, you’d be crazy to have literally your entire business dependent upon land-based business where you see online growth, when everybody’s forced to stay at home and you don’t know how long this is going to last. Is this going to come back in the spring time and if it’ll come back next year if you’re not going to be able to leave your home?

How big a factor was online casino and poker in relation to the Italian market before gamblers there had no sports on which to bet?

It’s a pretty big business in Italy. It’s a legal business and PartyPoker recently sort of had come back into the market, but PokerStars is one of the dominant players. People are at home and so they’re playing more, playing more poker. Italy is a relevant market. It’s a top-10 market in the world for gaming. Most people don’t realize that.

Can you estimate the monetary impact of multiple months of lost sports betting in the United States, particularly March and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament?

Right now it’s down 90-plus percent. I’ve seen a lot of different numbers in terms of total revenue, but what I think the legal sports betting was on a pretty good clip to be $10 billion monthly, so $120- ish [in a year]. I really think it’s going to take several months to sort of get back, but I do think that there’ll be pretty decent pent-up demand.

I think that the U.S. sports betting, and this is for 2019 was just about billion [monthly], so the whole year was $11 billion.

There’s no really new state activity. So if you think about last year alone, it was $11 billion from sports betting and this yea it could be less than half that, but I do think next year it could very well exceed, if things normalized. 2021 could be bigger than 2019 because you’ve got the Olympics now, you’ve got the Euro Cup, you just got a lot of people who have learned how to use online gaming. You have a lot of states now that need revenues that are probably going to accelerate their plans to legalize online.

Will sports betting’s momentum as a business and a pastime more available to more people in the United States allow it to pick right back up where it left off when this is over?

It’s not going to be like that, because I think it’s been a bit too long. You’ve got a lot of people out of work, you got a lot of people who had economic damage. So the business, you can sort of flip a switch and say, ‘OK, the business is open,’ but demand is going to take some time.

Now there’s a lot of government programs that are in place. You’ve got very cheap money, you have the system flushed with liquidity. You can have follow-on Congressional activity to help small businesses. You’re going to see people get hired back, but it’s going to be like when you turn up a dimmer as opposed to a light switch.

I think we’ll get back to very strong, especially given the government fiscal and monetary stimulus that’s in place. But if everything sort of goes as planned and things in May are turned back on we could be by elections, in a much more normalized environment. We could be well on our way to a pretty strong recovery. But it’s going to take several months for that dimmer that’s almost off right now to come back on and to be producing bright lights again.

Given how bad the timing of this was in terms of March Madness, would you agree it’s crucial for sportsbooks is a return of the NFL in some capacity this fall?

I think that’s right. And again, I wouldn’t just frame this in the context of sports betting either. I mean, you’ve got gigantic television contracts, gigantic. The TV broadcasters need this and want this, too, because there’s advertisers that have made sales and there’s been advances to teams and there’s already discussions with the [soccer] teams and the clubs in Europe to pay back some of their broadcasts advance. So gaming, it’s like a derivative industry to a much bigger industry, which is broadcasting and advertising. And they all want it and they want it for their own selfish economic reasons.

And don’t lose sight of the fact that the sport is not about betting. The sport is about the broadcast and the business of sports. And, to some extent the gaming industry is the first and second derivative around that gigantic economy, which is FOX and Sky and NBC and ESPN and everything else.

What’s the forecast for the recovery of the Macau casino market?

They opened the border and there was this video that I saw with thousands of people rushing the border to get in. And they actually got pretty clean for a couple of days with COVID-19 cases, even no new cases. Everything seemed to be going great with Macau in the context of trying to make a comeback, but there was a re-emergence of some cases and it was hard to track because it’s Chinese statistics.

But borders opened up just to Chinese and Hong Kong residents. And when the borders opened up to Chinese and Hong Kong residents only, the people that got infected had been in Europe or elsewhere within the last 14 days. So what’s happened in Macau now is if you go over, it’s a pretty long border control.

Usually, you’d get through in an hour or less, maybe even a half hour if it’s not busy. And the border control is a bit extreme now. I’m seeing reports it’s taking six hours to get through the border. Nobody wants that.

But the bigger issue is the borders have tightened up again. If you leave Macau, you’re required to quarantine for 14 days. I don’t know if you’re required or suggested, but that’s sort of the deal-killer.

I’d say business is still down 88 to 90%. But you scrape a lot of travel and tourism data on Macau and the bookings, the interest in bookings from Chinese and throughout the Asia market is just extraordinary. When Macau does green-light this, I think it’s going be like a Chinese New Year demand, which is one of the strongest periods for the Macau market.

There’s just a lot of interest in returning as soon as the Chinese markets can and, obviously, Macau has built itself up now where it’s gone well beyond gaming and has the new spectacular entertainment there and restaurants and non-gaming activities have been a push by the Chinese government.

What will be the apprehension level of the gaming public or non-gaming tourists in returning to casinos or shows in Las Vegas?

I think it’s mixed. I think that the casino operators that I talked to are far too optimistic. I think they’re all hoping there will be some Memorial Day open. The rates are going to be spectacular. You’re going to be able to get gigantic rooms for like $100. And I think everybody has to drop rates to the absolute lowest level they’ve ever sold for as long as they need too.

And I think what you’ll see with Las Vegas is that you’ll see a complete sale this summer. Like, airfare, hotel, $200, over multiple nights, and then that’ll move up over time just to get people out there. So I’m sort of hearing the pricing strategies of Las Vegas as they think about reopening this summer and the prices are going to be amazing, if you don’t mind being in Las Vegas in the summer – and I’ve done it – it’s pretty hot. Even sitting by the pool can be uncomfortable.

But I do think there’s going to be a lot of people who want to go and get out and the deals they’re going to get are unbelievable. You could take a whole family to Las Vegas for like a week and have airfare included and it could be under a thousand dollars and that might even include the buffet, one or two buffet meals.

So we’re back to that, which is sort of how Vegas recovered post-financial crisis and post-recession in 2002. That’s the playbook. That’s the Vegas playbook. And price as a means for recovery becomes very compelling to conventions and meetings because conventions and meetings look at New York, look at Orlando. [You] can put the whole convention in Las Vegas and look at the room prices and look at the rates and people say, ‘Yeah, Vegas is pretty fun, let’s do that.’ So price as a weapon has always Las Vegas’s means to a recovery.

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US Sports Betting Industry Will Recover

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The future of the American sports betting industry remains promising, perhaps even record-setting next year, said gaming industry analyst and SpringOwl Asset Management CEO Jason Ader.

This year, though, amid a COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down sports with cascading detriment to sportsbooks and sports networks, is about mitigating damage and learning lessons on how to safeguard that future. This applies to sports leagues, broadcasters, gaming companies and state legislators.

Among the means is for states without legalized online gaming and casinos and online poker to get it immediately, says Ader in an expansive PlayUSA interview,

The industry will come back, he said. That includes Las Vegas, which will be priced to move, he said, whenever coronavirus allows.

Q: How is the sports betting and gambling industry doing to respond and maintain itself during the COVID-19 shutdown?

JASON ADER: I think it’s been very tough. I mean, the world has much bigger problems than gambling. The whole sports and broadcast industry has been turned upside down. And from that perspective, there’s just no sports, so there’s just no sports betting at all. And you can see, there’s been some effort to find obscure sports and even eSports, the NBA obviously doing eSports with some of the top players, but the lack of sports betting has been pretty devastating for the online gambling companies.

I don’t know what more I can say about the land-based companies. I mean, they’re closed. I think it’s pretty staggering and I think this number may be low, but I do think that the unemployment rate in Las Vegas was pretty close to 50%. They’re the people who work in the casinos, the people who service the casino, the limo drivers and the companies that do the linen washing. It’s just all completely out of work and just devastating to the economy and obviously devastating for the state. [Gaming] is a source of tax revenue which is important without a state income tax [in Nevada].

The gaming industry has been a pretty good partner to the municipalities that have legalized it.

I think just about every state that has some form of gaming, it’s a top-five – and it may even be top three- – contributor in terms of overall state revenue after obviously sales tax and income tax.

Is this the biggest challenge the industry has faced?

At this moment in time, it’s as bad as we’ve ever seen and because so much of the infrastructure is closed and honestly, I don’t think it’s clear to anybody when things will reopen and what life will be like.

Is everybody going to be rushing to Las Vegas to sit at a crowded blackjack table or sweaty nightclub or busy convention center? I don’t think right away. I mean that’s something that will take a little bit of an adjustment.

I do have some fascinating statistics that I’m gonna share with you: Italy is kind of the worst-hit market in the world, maybe, in terms of death and shutdown, certainly one of the worst and still heavily concentrated. For the month of March, online casino was up 30%. Three-zero. Online poker cash games were up 89% and tournament poker revenues were up 123%. So that’s pretty amazing online statistics. So one of the things I’ve been thinking about, will land-based companies who’ve been forced to close go out and start buying online companies? You see statistics like this and they’d be crazy not to.

I mean, you’d be crazy to have literally your entire business dependent upon land-based business where you see online growth, when everybody’s forced to stay at home and you don’t know how long this is going to last. Is this going to come back in the spring time and if it’ll come back next year if you’re not going to be able to leave your home?

How big a factor was online casino and poker in relation to the Italian market before gamblers there had no sports on which to bet?

It’s a pretty big business in Italy. It’s a legal business and PartyPoker recently sort of had come back into the market, but PokerStars is one of the dominant players. People are at home and so they’re playing more, playing more poker. Italy is a relevant market. It’s a top-10 market in the world for gaming. Most people don’t realize that.

Can you estimate the monetary impact of multiple months of lost sports betting in the United States, particularly March and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament?

Right now it’s down 90-plus percent. I’ve seen a lot of different numbers in terms of total revenue, but what I think the legal sports betting was on a pretty good clip to be $10 billion monthly, so $120- ish [in a year]. I really think it’s going to take several months to sort of get back, but I do think that there’ll be pretty decent pent-up demand.

I think that the U.S. sports betting, and this is for 2019 was just about billion [monthly], so the whole year was $11 billion.

There’s no really new state activity. So if you think about last year alone, it was $11 billion from sports betting and this yea it could be less than half that, but I do think next year it could very well exceed, if things normalized. 2021 could be bigger than 2019 because you’ve got the Olympics now, you’ve got the Euro Cup, you just got a lot of people who have learned how to use online gaming. You have a lot of states now that need revenues that are probably going to accelerate their plans to legalize online.

Will sports betting’s momentum as a business and a pastime more available to more people in the United States allow it to pick right back up where it left off when this is over?

It’s not going to be like that, because I think it’s been a bit too long. You’ve got a lot of people out of work, you got a lot of people who had economic damage. So the business, you can sort of flip a switch and say, ‘OK, the business is open,’ but demand is going to take some time.

Now there’s a lot of government programs that are in place. You’ve got very cheap money, you have the system flushed with liquidity. You can have follow-on Congressional activity to help small businesses. You’re going to see people get hired back, but it’s going to be like when you turn up a dimmer as opposed to a light switch.

I think we’ll get back to very strong, especially given the government fiscal and monetary stimulus that’s in place. But if everything sort of goes as planned and things in May are turned back on we could be by elections, in a much more normalized environment. We could be well on our way to a pretty strong recovery. But it’s going to take several months for that dimmer that’s almost off right now to come back on and to be producing bright lights again.

Given how bad the timing of this was in terms of March Madness, would you agree it’s crucial for sportsbooks is a return of the NFL in some capacity this fall?

I think that’s right. And again, I wouldn’t just frame this in the context of sports betting either. I mean, you’ve got gigantic television contracts, gigantic. The TV broadcasters need this and want this, too, because there’s advertisers that have made sales and there’s been advances to teams and there’s already discussions with the [soccer] teams and the clubs in Europe to pay back some of their broadcasts advance. So gaming, it’s like a derivative industry to a much bigger industry, which is broadcasting and advertising. And they all want it and they want it for their own selfish economic reasons.

And don’t lose sight of the fact that the sport is not about betting. The sport is about the broadcast and the business of sports. And, to some extent the gaming industry is the first and second derivative around that gigantic economy, which is FOX and Sky and NBC and ESPN and everything else.

What’s the forecast for the recovery of the Macau casino market?

They opened the border and there was this video that I saw with thousands of people rushing the border to get in. And they actually got pretty clean for a couple of days with COVID-19 cases, even no new cases. Everything seemed to be going great with Macau in the context of trying to make a comeback, but there was a re-emergence of some cases and it was hard to track because it’s Chinese statistics.

But borders opened up just to Chinese and Hong Kong residents. And when the borders opened up to Chinese and Hong Kong residents only, the people that got infected had been in Europe or elsewhere within the last 14 days. So what’s happened in Macau now is if you go over, it’s a pretty long border control.

Usually, you’d get through in an hour or less, maybe even a half hour if it’s not busy. And the border control is a bit extreme now. I’m seeing reports it’s taking six hours to get through the border. Nobody wants that.

But the bigger issue is the borders have tightened up again. If you leave Macau, you’re required to quarantine for 14 days. I don’t know if you’re required or suggested, but that’s sort of the deal-killer.

I’d say business is still down 88 to 90%. But you scrape a lot of travel and tourism data on Macau and the bookings, the interest in bookings from Chinese and throughout the Asia market is just extraordinary. When Macau does green-light this, I think it’s going be like a Chinese New Year demand, which is one of the strongest periods for the Macau market.

There’s just a lot of interest in returning as soon as the Chinese markets can and, obviously, Macau has built itself up now where it’s gone well beyond gaming and has the new spectacular entertainment there and restaurants and non-gaming activities have been a push by the Chinese government.

What will be the apprehension level of the gaming public or non-gaming tourists in returning to casinos or shows in Las Vegas?

I think it’s mixed. I think that the casino operators that I talked to are far too optimistic. I think they’re all hoping there will be some Memorial Day open. The rates are going to be spectacular. You’re going to be able to get gigantic rooms for like $100. And I think everybody has to drop rates to the absolute lowest level they’ve ever sold for as long as they need too.

And I think what you’ll see with Las Vegas is that you’ll see a complete sale this summer. Like, airfare, hotel, $200, over multiple nights, and then that’ll move up over time just to get people out there. So I’m sort of hearing the pricing strategies of Las Vegas as they think about reopening this summer and the prices are going to be amazing, if you don’t mind being in Las Vegas in the summer – and I’ve done it – it’s pretty hot. Even sitting by the pool can be uncomfortable.

But I do think there’s going to be a lot of people who want to go and get out and the deals they’re going to get are unbelievable. You could take a whole family to Las Vegas for like a week and have airfare included and it could be under a thousand dollars and that might even include the buffet, one or two buffet meals.

So we’re back to that, which is sort of how Vegas recovered post-financial crisis and post-recession in 2002. That’s the playbook. That’s the Vegas playbook. And price as a means for recovery becomes very compelling to conventions and meetings because conventions and meetings look at New York, look at Orlando. [You] can put the whole convention in Las Vegas and look at the room prices and look at the rates and people say, ‘Yeah, Vegas is pretty fun, let’s do that.’ So price as a weapon has always Las Vegas’s means to a recovery.

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Responsible Gambling Measures Set Now Could Benefit Post-Pandemic Industry

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The shutdown of most sporting events due to COVID-19 presents problems and possibilities for the nascent legal gaming industry in the US.

Most importantly, whether responsible gambling initiatives will take root or set back measurably during this critical time.

So what makes this a potentially dangerous period? Bettors venturing into markets to wager on sports they’ve never seen and can’t even watch on television. Online casino gamblers with newfound free time because of sheltering orders or unemployment. Some unscrupulous operators picking at the edges of unethical business practices. That’s all according to Amani Toomer, a former New York Giants wide receiver and member of the GVC Holdings Global Foundation, which is tasked with addressing such issues as problem gambling.

“I just imagine people at home, with lots of free time, and sometimes people let things get out of hand,” Toomer told PlayUSA.com. “I think that could be a problem because people have more time to waste and it’s more exposure to a person who is prone to these types of illnesses. It just can really snowball because it just opens people up to more opportunities to fall into a trap.

“We feel like there’s a good opportunity to have people become aware of it and want to get help out there for people with all this extra time or find themselves getting in a hole that they don’t want to and we don’t want them into, just getting to a point where it’s just not productive and not entertainment anymore. We want it to remain entertainment.”

Toomer says problem gamblers, including those who may not realize or admit a problem could soon fall into peril if they “think irrationally that they could make up their extra income by gambling online and start gambling in patterns that are irregular to them.” Many people now have copious amounts of unoccupied time either because of sheltering orders or because they’re among the more than 17 million laid off in the United States in the current economic morass.

Exotic options problematic for bettors and books?

Sportsbooks themselves are hammered by the economic fallout. Global power GVC Holdings estimated COVID-connected losses could total 150 million pounds by July. The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates that around 625,000 casino and resort employees have lost jobs.

Sportsbooks have turned to the unusual and scant few options to attempt to maintain some semblance of volume until mainstream sports return. That’s meant Russian table tennis, Nicaraguan soccer, sumo wrestling and esports so far.

Whereas many bettors have probably played ping-ping, bet on an English Premier League game or humored a few minutes of Sumo wrestling highlights at some point in their lives, they’re not as versed in these sports as the NFL, NBA or college football in terms of what they know and how they could be reasonably assumed to wager astutely.

“People like to bet what they know,” observed William Hill trading director Nick Bogdanovich.

They don’t know Russian ping pong, and this, Toomer said, creates more concern.

“If you find yourself betting on stuff you know nothing about, you’re gambling on Russian table tennis, you might want to think about the relationship you have with responsible gambling,” he said, “because it’s just one of those things where you find yourself doing things that you ordinarily wouldn’t do, not because of boredom, but out of because of a need to fill a hole in something that should be entertaining, should be fun.

“And it becomes more than that when you are looking outside of your normal comfort zone, or trying just to get that fix. The problem gambling becomes bigger than everything else. And that’s kind of one of the definitions of a problem, is when you start taking chances that are detrimental to your lifestyle and your life.”

GVC Foundation hopes to advance responsibility now

GVC Holdings, which owns Ladbrokes Coral Group in the United Kingdom and in 2019 formed Roar Digital with MGM Resorts in the U.S., launched a global foundation in September.

They began to address multiple issues pressing the gaming industry and drilled down specifically on responsible gambling in October by forming a group in conjunction with the National Council on Problem Gambling. Toomer, Martin Lycka, director of regulatory affairs at GVC Holdings, and William J. Pascrell, III, partner at Princeton Public Affairs Group were named trustees.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has hammered the gaming industry, there is something to be made of the grinding halt, Lycka said. And, he added, this period underscores the industry’s need to engender responsibility in its customers.

GVC has burnished its pre-existing “Markers of Harm” problem gambling-evaluation with two additional elements specifically germaine to the COVID-19 situation and increased communications with customers, Lycka told PlayUSA.

The “Markers of Harm,” Lycka explained, are a collection of data points GVC or any other company could use to identify potential reckless behavior. This includes the frequency of a customer’s play, whether they tend to play after midnight, have a strong tendency to play on payday or chase losses.

“All these triggers give us a very, very good overview of behavior patterns of individual customers and based on those triggers, we take action in relation to the individual account,” Lycka told PlayUSA. “But the practical upshot is that if a customer triggers out of those nine, let’s say two off those alert mechanisms, then somebody in GVC’s responsible gambling or customer services team picks up a phone to the customer and checks on the customer to find out that everything’s all right. There could be a perfectly logical explanation for the change in the customer behavior. They could be shift workers and these people may for legitimate reasons bet after midnight, for example, or if it turns out that a customer has started spending more money on our sites, the customer might have had a pay rise, for example. So that would be an example of a perfect legitimate explanation of perfectly legitimate reasons for the change in customer behavior.”

A slow but steady improvement in responsible gambling

Lycka acknowledged that the American market is “getting there” in terms of responsible gambling measures, but remains not as “sophisticated” as its more mature and expansive European counterpart.

Sports betting is currently legal in 23 American states or jurisdictions and underway in 18 (nine with full mobile), bringing market share and tax revenue away from unlicensed offshore operators. This is also a facet of the problem and solution, Lycka said.

“US regulation has not necessarily captured the most recent responsible gambling trends just yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not not trying to blame anyone,” he said. “I believe that to some extent it actually makes sense because the market is potentially not yet sophisticated enough for all those tools. So definitely the focus needs to be on channeling the previously unlicensed offer into the regulated market. And of course that needs to go hand-in-hand with consumer protection that can be progressively ramped up.

“I believe that the US industry is on the right track, but it will still need some time to get there. I don’t mean to sound cynical, but perhaps the current crisis provides the US with an opportunity to step up its efforts in that regard as well, all linked to … people being isolated at home and potentially being tempted to play online.”

The industry must also do better, Lycka said, in policing the handful of operators who sought to exploit the crisis in its early stages.

“There has been some exploitation of the current crisis for greedy revenue purposes by some operators,” Lycka said. “They are usually much smaller operators whom I would call rotten apples in our little industry barrel that would simply choose to not have any responsible gambling tools.”

Measures taken now can later benefit the industry and gamblers

Eventually this will be over. It will not happen instantly, but at some point, the 989 casinos now closed nationally (according to the AGA) will reopen and customers will be allowed to return.

Some may be reticent, as they would be with a restaurant or movie theater. Some will toe-tap at the front door awaiting the deadbolt to be clicked open. Whether their state had a legal online option for their casino, poker or sports betting tastes will likely factor into their response.

Like GeoComply CEO David Briggs, Lycka thinks mobile gambling can be a responsible gambling tool because it allows for better monitoring of player habits, specifically destructive ones.

“I also see it as an opportunity from the responsible gambling best practice standpoint. And, hopefully that’s also a part,” he said. “I believe it may help the potential floodgate issue that we could have at the end of the crisis. In a state that has not yet regulated online, punters who would normally go to a casino but now are confined to their home, they would have an opportunity to open an online account, which would also mean that they would get access to do additional information about how to gamble in a responsible way.

“They would familiarize themselves with [responsible gambling] tools and perhaps when they’re back in the casino, I would think, perhaps naively, when they come back to their favorite slot machines, they might be thinking, ‘All right, I can limit myself online. So how about I try to self-impose those restrictions when playing in a casino?’”

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