Updated: Oct. 2 8:30 a.m.
The gaming industry may be dealing with casinos closing in Mississippi and New Jersey, but for three-days in Las Vegas the industry’s trade association has been responding to the bad news with a study meant to display the economic impact the industry has on the country.
At Global Gaming Expo, also know as G2E, this week at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, the American Gaming Association released a study that says the industry contributed $240 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
The study, conducted by Oxford Economic, says casinos employ 1.7 million people nationwide and generate $38 million in tax revenues. Those figures take into account commercial casinos, those owned by Native American tribes, related manufacturers and other related local businesses.
“We’ve known for a long time that our industry’s contributions have gone underestimated but these numbers are even bigger than we anticipated,” Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, said in a release accompanying the study’s release Freeman said this research further underscores the importance of “our message to policymakers: work with us as partners so that gaming can innovate, reinvest and create even more jobs.”
The gaming industry would like those figures to become the narrative, and not the battle between opponents of online gaming, led by Las Vegas Sands Corp. chairman Sheldon Adelson, and supporters of Internet gambling.
Adelson launched the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling late last year to ban online gaming, promising to use his considerable fortune to push the issue.
On Wednesday, Adelson continued to lobby against online gaming, opposing its legalization during an appearance at G2E. Adelson expressed his concern about not being able to "know your customer" online, along with suggesting it was easy for underage players to gamble online.
Adelson's opposition to online gaming should not be a surprise to anyone who follows the industry. The 81-year-old casino mogul has bank rolled the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, a nonprofit lobbying for a federal ban.
On other topics, Adelson spoke about his company's success in Macau, where Las Vegas Sands helped transform the former Portuguese Colony into a gambling hotbed. Adelson also said only Texas, South Florida and Tampa could support casinos.
Adelson, who grew up outside Boston, said he wasn't interest in a Massachusetts casino license. He expected his friend and neighbor to the north on the Strip Steve Wynn to be successful with his $1.6 billion project in Everett, Mass.
While the industry debates the future of online gaming and expansion, it’s also dealing with a black eye, the result of casino closures in New Jersey and Mississippi. In Mississippi, Harrah's Tunica Casino and Biloxi's Margaritaville have closed.
This year four out of 12 Atlantic City casinos were forced to close - Revel, Showboat, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casinos, and Atlantic Club Casino. Brookfield Asset Management this week purchased the $2.4 billion Revel casino for $110 million, with plans to reopen the property.
While much of the focus of gaming industry trade show is on exhibits, panel discussions and new slot machines, Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman CEO Steve Wynn on Tuesday stressed that slot machines were not the real reasons behind the success of casinos. Wynn said there were other issues that are more important.
“It was never the slot machines,” Wynn told a big crowd in a keynote address on the first full day of G2E. “The machines have no power unto themselves. It’s about things that give people a chance to live big. That’s why they come to Las Vegas. “If you give it to them, you’re going to be ok.”
Wynn said competition for the gambling dollar is tough these days because consumers are so mobile. “You got to give people something they’re willing to get on an airplane and submit a body search for,” Wynn said. “That (isn’t) slot machines, friends, and it sure as hell (isn’t) a baccarat table.”
Roger Gros, publisher, Global Gaming Business Magazine; Chris Sieroty, KNPR producer, business reporter