As we close the book on 2020, it will undoubtedly be remembered as the most challenging year in our industry’s history. Our strong start in January and February quickly evaporated as the pandemic halted the global gaming industry overnight—shutting down all 989 U.S. casinos, freezing sportsbooks, and disrupting supplier pipelines.
Our industry responded with resilience, creativity, optimism and care. In tough times, we have come together and achieved much. Through the American Gaming Association (AGA), we secured historic recognition and support for our industry in 2020, and advanced our shared interests across a range of critical issues. I’m proud to say that—in a year in which it really mattered—we have never had a more effective advocate in the AGA. Highlights of the AGA’s work include:
Historic Relief in the CARES Act
In the lead-up to 2020, the AGA successfully worked with members of Congress to relaunch the Congressional Gaming Caucus. This groundwork to build congressional champions, combined with united efforts from the AGA, its members and the broader gaming industry, resulted in crucial federal economic relief being made available for the first time in our industry’s history. The inclusion of the gaming industry in the CARES Act saved countless jobs, and supported our businesses and the communities who rely on us right across the country. Now, as our industry fights for much-needed additional relief from Congress, we can be confident that our collective voice will be heard in our nation’s capital.
I sincerely believe this year’s global health crisis brought out the best in our industry. Our collaboration and innovation on health and safety products and measures led the way for many American businesses to responsibly reopen. And our robust recovery since reopening proves that we are problem solvers that can find new ways to responsibly entertain and delight patrons. Moreover, we demonstrated our values and the care we feel for our communities, by donating millions of dollars’ worth of meals and Personal Protective Equipment to first responders and those in need, setting up testing sites at our properties and supporting our industry’s employees, who include commercial and tribal operators, as well as suppliers, through extended benefits and relief funds.
Modernizing Payment Options
Payment choice on the casino floor is long overdue and essential for sustained industry growth. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, AGA members worked together to finalize and publish new Payments Modernization Policy Principles with an emphasis on contactless safety. These principles serve as a guide for regulators to build effective and responsible digital payment frameworks. Commercial and tribal regulators—in states like California, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—are already taking action to adopt progressive payments modernization regulations, while suppliers are introducing digital solutions to properties like Boyd Gaming’s Blue Chip Casino Resort Spa, Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar World, and many other locations across the country.
Protecting the Legal Sports Betting Market
The growth of sports betting continued in 2020, with legalization in five states and another six legal markets going live. Americans continue to embrace sports betting with almost $20 billion legally wagered on sports in 2020. This is a far cry from the $4.9 billion bet on sports in the last full year under PASPA in 2017. The AGA continues to focus on protecting this opportunity by advancing responsible gaming, defending against efforts to limit competition, and informing and educating policymakers. This includes updated Sports Betting Principles, which provide a framework for sustainably advancing the industry as it continues to mature, as well as continued work to represent our interests—whether on Capitol Hill or in state houses—to combat the illegal market and protect the integrity of competitions.
Combating Unregulated Gaming Machines
The unchecked spread of unregulated gaming machines throughout the United States remains a serious concern for the industry. This year, AGA partnered with the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM) to bring to light the lack of testing, consumer protections, and responsible gaming measures, which underscore the need for states with gray market and illegal machines to make this a priority area of focus. In partnership with AGEM, AGA will continue to educate state and local policymakers, law enforcement, and regulatory agencies by providing new resources and tools to stop the proliferation of unregulated gaming machines.
Prioritizing Responsible Gaming
Promoting responsible gaming is core to our social license to operate, and this year, our industry made important progress to uphold this commitment. In January, the AGA, advocacy groups, academics, and other stakeholders set the agenda for the future of responsible gaming with the introduction of the Responsible Gambling Collaborative’s effectiveness principles. Key to our future success is extending our RG commitment to new gaming formats, like sports betting. This year, the AGA welcomed NASCAR and the NHL as its first Have A Game Plan.® Bet Responsibly. league partners. Engaging sports leagues, media, and other new gaming industry entrants in responsible gaming will prove essential to maintaining our reputation for responsibility as the market evolves. AGA members also worked together to launch the enforcement process for AGA’s Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering, setting a standard for responsible advertising across the sports betting ecosystem.
The unprecedented need for collaboration over the past year is why the AGA has never been more valuable to our industry. The association exists because of a realization 25 years ago that together we are greater than the sum of our parts. It is imperative—at this historic juncture—that we continue to band together and renew our collective commitment to the AGA. Our industry’s reputation and recovery depend on it.