G2E 2012: Casino leaders upbeat about gaming future

By Chris Sieroty
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
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.

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