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Casino Industry Ponders #MeToo

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Josh Hawkins, Creative Services, UNLV

Former Gaming Control Board Chair Becky Harris at UNLV.

In 1974, UNLV Professor Bill Eadington — among the first to apply academic rigor to gambling-related issues — gathered some like-minded thinkers.

That evolved into the International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking, which bills itself as “the world’s first and finest gambling conference.”

The event, held every three years, was held this week at Caesars Palace. It attracted academics, casino executives, regulators, and gamblers from more than two-dozen countries.

A list of the presentations and panels filled a 48-page program for this week’s conference. Topics included the expansion of casino resorts into Japan, the latest in problem gambling treatment, and the industry’s reaction to the #metoo movement.

Becky Harris, Nevada’s first female Gaming Control Board chairwoman, was a featured speaker. She led the control board through the bulk of its investigation into casino tycoon Steve Wynn, whose improper behavior toward women has cost Wynn Resorts $55 million in fines.

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“What I talked about at the conference was the regulatory process and the sexual harassment prevention regulations that the board put together while I was chair. On March 1, 2018, we established a purposed guideline and industry notice with regard to sexual harassment and then embarked on a months-long conversation with key stakeholders in the industry.”

She said at the conference many industry leaders were talking about how to protect women in the workplace from harassment. Since the Wynn Resorts scandal, it has been a topic of conversation but Harris noted that most gaming companies want to follow the rules when it comes to this topic.

Besides preventing sexual harassment, one of the big topics at this year's conference was efforts to bring Las Vegas-style resorts to Japan.

Chris Sieroty is the U.S. editor for Gaming Compliance and he attended the three-day conference.

He said the estimates on how much money the new market will generate are expected to top gaming revenue from Las Vegas but be behind Macau's gaming numbers.

"It's a big prize," he said, "Osaka will be the first town in Japan that probably names one of our companies to get a license. MGM is really focused on Osaka. Expect the first integrated resort to open in 2025."

Harris noted there are some potential bumps in the road for Japan that they are trying to address right now, specifically when it comes to responsible gaming.

"I think they want to make sure that the citizens of Japan and others who may come as tourists are engaging in gambling in a responsible way and that it's not becoming problematic," she said.

Sieroty noted that the Japanese market will really have to start from scratch when talking about gambling as an addiction. He said it isn't a thing that is talked about as much. 

Besides topics of sexual harassment and the soon-to-be-open Japanese market, the three-day conference highlighted the fact that Las Vegas is really the knowledge center for gaming, resorts and hospitality industries.

Harris said that is why the new innovation center being created by Caesars Entertainment and UNLV is vital. 

"We are really excited about this," she said, "We think it will lead to innovation and transformation in the gaming sector and I think those are good things." 

She said the innovation hub will spur creativity and entrepreneurship in the industry. Plus, she believes it will benefit the community outside the gaming industry.

"I think there are going to be side benefits not only through the industry but for consumers as well as we get these cross-collaborations and drive into the next transformation or iteration of what Vegas is going to be," she said.

Guests

Becky Harris, academic fellow, UNLV International Gaming Institute; Chris Sieroty, U.S. editor, Gambling Compliance information service

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