As we enter December, it’s natural to take a look back at the year just past and reflect on what it means to us personally and the fascinating business that supports us.
For me personally, 2023 has been one hell of a ride. I entered the year not feeling very well, and continued to decline until it got very serious. In April I knew something was drastically wrong but my doctors in Nevada couldn’t pinpoint it. So I reached out to some of my friends connected to the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Downtown Las Vegas.
The Ruvo Center is a division of the Cleveland Clinic, the best heart hospital in the country. Now, I had never had heart problems before, but folks at the Ruvo Center told me to get to Cleveland immediately, which I did.
I arrived in late April for some tests and appointments with the various doctors in Cleveland, but on day one, they admitted me to the hospital, where I would remain for the next month. They discovered that my heart was about to give out. Two of my valves were almost destroyed and a third needed reconstruction. So I’m thankful for the pigs and cows whose valves now are keeping my heart beating—not to mention the good friends who came to my rescue and got me into the Cleveland Clinic.
If anything good came out of that experience—outside of me still being alive and recovering nicely, by the way—it was that our company didn’t skip a beat—please forgive the pun. Our GGB staff stepped up big time, and no one even knew I was sick until I published it after the fact. The quality of the publications—both online and in print—was just as good, if not better, than while I was overseeing everything. So thanks to everyone listed to the right of this column (the GGB Magazine masthead). If it wasn’t for them, our voice might have gone silent.
For the industry, 2023 was a year of transition. The vaunted legal sports betting industry spread like wildfire across the country with grandiose promises of huge revenues and oversized tax payments. And while that might be true, the expectations of sports betting investors have been somewhat deflated.
Very few online sportsbooks are turning a profit, even the ones that claim the biggest market share. Now we’re looking to the expansion of iGaming—online casinos complete with virtual table games and slot machines. In states where iGaming has been legal, the revenues have dwarfed sports betting and the accompanying tax windfall has been more than expected. And we just celebrated the 10th anniversary of iGaming in New Jersey in November.
The spread of legal land-based gaming has slowed to a crawl around the world. The recovery from the pandemic has been impressive for existing casinos, but operators have played their cards close to the vest when it comes to expansion. There have been rumors of new jurisdictions in the U.S. such as Texas and Georgia, but nothing that has any legs at this time.
Internationally, Thailand is looking at gaming, and a few projects in the Philippines and South Korea are on the horizon, but other than that, operators seem to be hunkering down and hoping to ride out any downturn in the worldwide economy.
The recently completed G2E demonstrated that slot manufacturers haven’t rested on their laurels. The new games and technology that were presented at America’s largest trade show and conference were mind-boggling. Now they’re sitting back and waiting to see if the operators are ready to take that plunge. Will all those payment companies that were front and center at G2E be able to convince enough operators that their players are ready? Will the players understand that cashless transactions will benefit them as much as the operators?
Technology that serves iGaming and sports betting is also improving. Will some of the static sports betting platforms be enough to maintain the market share that they currently enjoy? Or will a dramatic breakthrough propel one of the also-rans to a position of dominance? What will happen in regard to iGaming when the states and jurisdictions that currently host it demonstrate that there is a lucrative market just waiting to be tapped?
And what happens when the industry continues to address problem gambling? GGB published a series of online articles every day during September—Responsible Gaming Education Month—by RG experts that really showed there is no consensus about how the industry is doing when confronting problem gambling. Can we get our act together before the regulators begin to force us?
I can tell you that 2024 will be a momentous year for GGB. We’re going to redouble our efforts to be the true voice of the gaming industry—both online and in real life. So come along for the ride. Let’s all confront these issues and make our industry more transparent, more efficient and more profitable for everyone involved.