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Bill Miller

President & CEO, American Gaming Association

Bill Miller

Bill Miller became the third leader of the American Gaming Association in 2019, and has dealt with a variety of issues from the legalization of sports betting to an industry initiative that battles human trafficking. But the challenges ahead of a slumping economy and the spread of iGaming will test his and the organization’s fortitude. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at the AGA offices in Washington, D.C. in July. (See video below for full interview).

GGB: Gaming just had a record-breaking year revenue-wise, and it looks like 2022 will surpass that. But of course, now we have this this shadow of inflation and higher gas prices staring us in the face. How should the industry respond to these kinds of real-world concerns?

Bill Miller: First, I think it is important to remember where we just came from. We came from the nadir. The 989 casinos all across America—every single one of them shut down for months, with furloughs of tens of thousands of people. No area in the country was more badly affected than Nevada and Las Vegas. Right now we’re in 44 states, and every one of these communities was negatively impacted both from a tax perspective and from an economic perspective.

In terms of GGR, both in commercial and the tribal gaming, the bounceback has been extraordinary.

But you mention a couple things that are really important, and they’re clouds on the horizon. They include things like supply chain, labor shortage, interest rates, inflation and gas prices, particularly as it relates to regional casinos. If you were to look at the world today, remembering what the world looked like in the dark days of 2020, we are doing extraordinarily well. But we have to be at least concerned a little bit about the overall state of the economy and what it means for our industry.

Sports betting was legalized in 2018 with a tremendous assist from the AGA. How gratified are you that so many states have actually legalized sports betting?

I’ve spent most of my life in government, advising government or lobbying government, and I’ve never seen anything move quite as quickly as this. Right now we’re legal in 35 states, plus the District of Columbia. To see that much happen so quickly, it has been really gratifying.

Some states though, really haven’t gotten the memo when it comes to creating a successful operating environment with high tax rates, high fees and then some regulatory hurdles as well. Is this going to be a problem in the long run?

One of the things that’s important is to think about what we have been able to get right. The states have recognized that there is an illegal market out there, and particularly when you’re talking about mobility, you have to create a product that gets the consumer to move away from the illegal market, into the legal market. And that involves tax rates and regulation and some of the other issues. We need to make sure that we’re providing a safe alternative to the illegal market that provides taxes and jobs, and consumer protections. If they tax it too high, the bettor is going to stay in the illegal market. And that’s where we, by and large, have been successful with a couple of exceptions.

There’s been a lot of pushback in the U.S. on sports betting advertising. It’s getting on people’s nerves, particularly nerves of legislators and regulators. Should the industry get together and agree that maybe we need to back up a little bit?

Advertising is an important vehicle to move the bettor to legal websites. They often don’t even know they’re betting at illegal sites. So how do you move that bettor from an illegal website to the legal marketplace? Advertising is an important piece to this.

With the legalization of sports betting, responsible gaming has become much more important. Last month we ran an article by Art Paikowsky, the president of the International Center For Responsible Gaming, in which he said we need a lot more research into the issue of gambling harm and whether sports betting equates to an increase in problem gambling. Do you think more studies should be done on sports gamblers?

I do. I think there is not enough scientific-based research on the technology and the impact of payment modernization and the dynamic that includes mobility, sports betting, and increased offerings. We absolutely need more academic research, more health and behavioral scientists in this. I’m honored to sit on ICRG’s board, and I do believe with them leading the way and creating opportunities via grants and other sources of funding, this is long overdue.

We’re all excited to return to G2E this year in full force. The Indian Gaming Tradeshow in March was a big success. What are you expecting at G2E, October 11-14?

Last year, our vendors arrived at the show excited, but cautious. We provided a safe environment to meet, and this year we are ready to ramp it up. We’re dealing with not only the massive investments that the suppliers and manufacturers make. I believe we are convincing them that there is an actual viable marketplace. Not just the safety piece. But what we’re not trying to do is do a show that’s a symbolism show. We’re trying to create an economic marketplace, and a viable one.

We’ve already eclipsed our sales number in terms of the number of exhibitors and floor space reserved and purchased. And now that we’ve opened up registration, that looks really good too. So we’re looking forward to seeing everyone in Las Vegas in October.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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