G2E 2012: Sports-wagering execs watching outcome of N.J. legal battle

By Chris Sieroty
Posted: Oct. 2, 2012 | 4:47 p.m.

Sports betting will probably never be regulated federally anytime soon.

But industry executives believe that a positive outcome of New Jersey’s court battle to legalize wagering on sports in the Garden State could set the stage for other states to legalize the industry.

“New Jersey’s challenge to (the federal ban) is the best place to start,” said Jeff Burge, chief financial officer with Cantor Gaming. “I expect it will be around in the courts for a while.”

Only four states allow sports betting, and Nevada is the only state where bettors can wager on individual sporting events, from soccer to basketball and football.

In 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which banned sports betting in all states except for those that allowed it in some form. The federal law gave New Jersey an extra year to legalize sports wagering, a deadline it failed to meet.

The other states that have legalized sports wagering are Oregon, Montana and Delaware.

Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill U.S., said New Jersey was “a big focus for our industry in the US.”

“No one knows how this will play out,” said Asher. “Outside of the courts, it’s not realistic that Congress will move in the short-term … too much going one.”

New Jersey voted 2-to-1 on a referendum to allow sports betting. Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., signed the bill this year, allowing sports wagering at casinos and horse racing tracks.

Bookmakers in Las Vegas have praised Christie for tackling the issue but are worried about federal government interference. Asher said he had no doubts that one day sports betting would be “widespread and legal in the United States.”

Art Manteris, vice president race and sports book operations at Station Casinos LLC; Nicky Senyard, CEO of Income Access; and Anthony Coles, senior partner with the law firm of Jeffrey Green Russell; joined Asher and Burge on Tuesday for a panel discussion on sports betting at Global Gaming Expo 2012 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

Asher said a court date is scheduled for this month. The National Football League, National Basketball League, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the state’s efforts to allow gambling on their games.

Senyard said there is already a “very big illegal market,” which could be significantly reduced with the legalization of sports wagering.

“We’ve seen this as a driver of a lot of growth,” especially in Europe,” Senyard said. That growth has been seen in an increase in jobs, charitable donations and taxes.

She said legalized sports betting in New Jersey would lead to other states legalizing the industry. Senyard said it wasn’t about “creating a new market,” instead it was legalizing an illegal market that already exists.

But will New Jersey be successful in overturning the federal ban?

“It’s a very tough call,” Manteris said. “I look at it as a bookmaker. I would love to set the odds. Right now I would make the NFL and (Justice Department) a very slight favorite.”

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow@sierotyfeatures on Twitter.


G2E 2012: Casino leaders upbeat about gaming future

By Chris Sieroty
Posted: Oct. 3, 2012 | 4:15 p.m.
Updated: Oct. 4, 2012 | 7:42 a.m.

Representatives from MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and several other casino operators and suppliers on Wednesday expressed optimism about their industry, with continued expansion in Asia and online gambling leading the way in the next five years.

Michael Leven, president and COO of Las Vegas Sands, and other panelists said they don’t expect any new resort openings in Las Vegas and agreed that the industry must use technology more effectively to capture the next generation of gamblers.

“You want to predict the future five years from now, roll the dice,” Leven said Wednesday during a panel discussion at Global Gaming Expo at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

Leven, Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts, and Patti Hart, CEO of International Game Technology, were among speakers who addressed a wide range of topics on the state of the gaming industry during the hourlong discussion.

Murren said he expects 2012 to be better than last year for Las Vegas, which is “saying something after what this town has been through.” He said expectations for 2013 are looking strong, with convention bookings already up double digits, and 2014 looks even better.

Leven was more cautious, saying the health of the casino industry is tied to disposable income. He said that if the “world’s economy grows, we’ll do well,” but another recession would hurt the industry.

A majority of panelists said they expect that legalization of online poker in the United States would attract new business to brick-and-mortar casinos, not take it away.

Hart said online poker would allow the industry to grow in the United States again. She said she sees online gaming not as a threat to traditional casinos, but as a challenge.

“The gaming industry has done incredibly well in reinventing itself several times,” Hart said.

Leven reminded the audience that his boss, Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson, opposes legalizing online gaming because of three concerns: profitability, the inability to control underage gambling and what he sees as a negative impact on traditional casinos.

“We don’t think (online poker) will hurt Las Vegas,” Leven said. “We think it will have a negative impact on smaller markets.”

Leven said Adelson, who has made headlines as a major donor to political campaigns in recent months, has shared his views with lawmakers but stressed that “he has not told any politician” how to vote on the issue. He also questioned the industry’s desire for federal regulation of online poker, warning that federal oversight could lead to over-regulation and cut into profits.

“No doubt there are risks that exist,” Murren said. “We prefer it happen on a federal level.”

Murren said a federal approach would lead to “consistency of regulations” instead of a patchwork of state-by-state rules. He said MGM Resorts isn’t intimidated by potential competition from online providers and thinks it will be profitable online.

“We are embracing it as an opportunity,” Murren said. “We can’t stick our head in the sand and hope it goes away.”

The gaming executives also were optimistic about future growth in Asia, especially after success in Macau and Singapore. Both Murren and Leven expect casino gaming in the near future in Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, and eventually in Japan.

MGM Resorts is building a nongaming resort in Vietnam, Murren said. Both Sands and MGM operate resort-casinos in Macau.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@ reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

G2E 2012: Tribal gaming execs mark regulatory act’s 25th anniversary

By Chris Sieroty
Posted: Oct. 4, 2012 | 4:39 p.m.

The evolution of tribal gaming in the two decades since the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is obvious. Multimillion-dollar resorts dot the landscape in many states, replacing the original bingo halls housed in run-down trailers.

Jana McKeag, president of Lowry Strategies, an Alexandria, Va.-based government and public affairs consulting firm, said the act “changed Indian country forever.” The federal law approved by Congress in 1988 established the jurisdictional framework that governs tribal gaming.

The act will turn 25 in October 2013.

“That time has flown by,” Tony Sanchez Jr., president of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, said Thursday during a panel discussion at Global Gaming Expo at The Venetian.

The three-day Global Gaming Expo ended Thursday.

Sanchez said it has been a quick 25 years in which the Seminole Tribe have gone from operating bingo halls to building Las Vegas-style casinos and owning the Hard Rock name.

“We see opportunity both domestic and international with the Hard Rock brand,” he said. “The gaming business will continue to evolve. With technology evolving, we are always looking at how we can incorporate it into our existing business.”

Sanchez joined National Indian Gaming Association Executive Director Jason Giles, Gaming Laboratories International President and CEO James Maida and Katherine Spilde, chairwoman of the Sycuan Institute of Tribal Gaming at San Diego State, in a panel discussion on the act’s forthcoming 25th anniversary and its effect on the tribal gaming business.

Maida, an attorney, opened the first nonstate independent gaming testing lab in his garage in the late 1980s. He said the first state compact in 1988 in Minnesota was 11 pages and remains the backbone of the tribal gaming business today in the state.

“Six weeks later, I got a call … we were off to Madison, Wis., to negotiate another compact,” Maida said. “Today, there are 228 tribes and 265 casinos that work with Gaming Laboratories International.”

When asked whether he thought tribal gaming would be as successful as it is, Maida told some 200 industry executives and analysts, “I didn’t know … nobody could have known.”

Giles attributed tribal gaming’s success to “strong regulation” of its casinos.

“That is the backbone,” Giles said. “Tribal leaders originally didn’t want IGRA. It was very restrictive. But 25 years is just a short history. We are just scratching the surface.”

He also said tribal casinos survived the recession in better shape than commercial casinos. Giles said a number of tribal casinos struggled, but avoided the massive layoffs the commercial casino industry had.

“Tribal gaming is different, it’s about protecting the community,” Giles said.

The act was created to provide a legislative basis for the operation and regulation of tribal gaming, to protect gaming as a means of generating revenue for the tribes and to encourage economic development.

The law also established the National Indian Gaming Commission to regulate the industry, while the U.S. Department of the Interior also has an oversight role.

Lowery Strategies’ McKeag concluded the hourlong panel discussion by asking where the industry was going in terms of advances in technology.

“I-gaming is an issue that is going to arrive in some form and some way,” Maida said.

He said some compacts are 20 years old and it will be difficult to update them to deal with online gaming. Maida said the industry was considering “how to amend them for technology with out opening them up again” for negotiations.

“We have been dragging our feet to understand how we are going to enter this market,” Sanchez said. “We know we want to be in that market. We are not in a big hurry at this point. We are waiting.”

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.