Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to address the Louisiana Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force. The formation of this task force is an astute acknowledgment the public policies that guided gaming’s expansion beyond Nevada and New Jersey are not necessarily the same policies that will empower the industry to succeed in today’s ultra-competitive environment, where gaming is now viewed as a mainstream industry.
My comments in Louisiana highlighted key principles that could apply to each of the 40 gaming states to allow the industry to create more jobs, generate more tax revenue and reinvest in communities where we do business. We believe three elements should define any regulatory regime.
First is to streamline the regulatory process. Right now, the regulatory process is arduous. In Louisiana, for example, it can take almost a year for an operator to get approval for a new game. However, the process is smoother in other states. New Jersey has rolled out a reform called “New Jersey First.” Under this approach, the state Division of Gaming Enforcement guarantees that new gaming products submitted to New Jersey before or simultaneously with any other state will be tested and put on the gaming floor in no more than 14 days. This helps casinos adapt more rapidly to changing technology and compete more effectively against other entertainment options.
Second is to empower regulators and the industry to act. The goal here should be to establish principles, not prescriptions. Legislators should define the broad principles for gaming regulation, not heap mandates on regulators that tie their hands, ignore their expertise and act as barriers to change.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby has proposed just such an approach in his state so regulators can adapt more quickly as new types of gaming enter the market—like eSports and daily fantasy sports. Under this proposal, the legislature would outline fundamental values and regulatory priorities. Regulators would have wide latitude to apply these principles to new games, rather than waiting for legislators to craft entirely new bills with detailed new rules every time a different game or technology comes along.
Other states are finding that a principles-based approach allows high regulatory standards to be achieved, while giving the industry the freedom to choose the path that’s best.
Finally, states must treat the casino gaming industry as a trusted partner, not an adversary.
Maryland regulators, for example, have established a formal annual comment process. State casino operators are invited to identify regulatory reforms or fixes that can have an immediate impact on improving the gaming environment. Regulators have told us that this process builds trust and helps regulators gain perspective on day-to-day challenges running casinos. Regulators don’t implement every suggestion, but they have adopted many.
It’s turned into a win-win solution that helps the industry operate more efficiently and sustains the flow of much-needed tax revenue for Maryland communities. Many of these are very focused and technical. But taken together, they create a constant drive for greater operational and business efficiency as well as more flexibility on the casino floor.
AGA and gaming states around the country share a common goal. We both want a vibrant gaming industry that can reach its full potential when it comes to generating economic growth, providing jobs and contributing tax revenue. Task forces like the one in Louisiana can be a model for the rest of the U.S. Through progressive regulations, states can position themselves to be flexible enough, nimble enough and adaptable enough to allow everyone to share in the benefits our industry provides.