Each new year presents new opportunities and challenges, but as we flip our calendars to 2014, there’s a consistent trend in our industry that’s bound to be an even hotter topic than in the past: internet gaming. Three states adopted online gaming regulations in the past year, and as many as a dozen more could have ballot initiatives to do the same this year.
Meanwhile, debate over the issue—both within and outside the gaming industry—continues.
With so much at stake, we can expect divergent opinions. And although it’s easy for some to focus on the areas where our industry differs, I would like to highlight those areas where consensus exists in the gaming industry:
• We are, and always have been, on the side of regulation—in all forms of gaming. Online gambling is relatively new, but is no less in need of proper regulation than the other forms of gambling our industry provides. Just as the internet isn’t going anywhere, internet gambling is here to stay. By spending nearly $3 billion on unregulated offshore sites in 2012, U.S. consumers have proven they won’t wait for regulators to act. Prohibition hasn’t worked to stem the desire for online gambling opportunities, and it clearly won’t work in the future. This means regulation is the answer.
• We agree that shutting down unlicensed and unregulated actors is safer for our customers and better for our country. With a uniform set of minimum standards for online gambling across the country, which we’ve consistently called on Washington to provide, consumers will no longer be forced into a black market. Through regulation, we can protect those consumers—as we always strive to do—while also giving law enforcement the resources they need to shut down illegal operators. Without such action, illegal operators will continue to thrive as they have done for the past many years.
Further, closing the black market brings with it the potential to tap into new revenue streams and reach new customers that will help increase our bottom lines and add to the nearly $9 billion a year in tax revenue the industry already provides to states.
• Ensuring the integrity of our games is one of the foundations of our industry. It’s essential to the consistency and trust that our industry has worked hard to build over the years. Regulation has long proven effective for our industry at brick-and-mortar casinos, and it is equally as critical in the online space. And with geolocation, age verification, responsible gaming and player tracking technologies available, we can protect the games and players like never before. But this protection can only come with strong regulation.
• We have always evolved to meet the new needs and interests of our customers—in every era, at every turn. This mentality has kept our industry on innovation’s leading edge. Other industries have stood at similar crossroads before—often in the online marketplace and often with stark results. Now that we stand at our own crossroads, a particular analogy comes to mind. We have the ability to ask ourselves: Do we want to be Blockbuster or Netflix? Do we want to get ahead of the wave or left in its wake?
Fortunately, we have a choice. Strong regulation instead of prohibition is the only way to effectively protect our customers, push lawbreakers out of the market and keep the games safe and fair. We must learn from the lessons of the past—within our industry and others. The opportunity for innovation is here again, and we shouldn’t let it pass us by.