There have been a couple of high-profile gaming defeats but in each instance one could see evidence of progress that could pay off long term.



There has been so much expansion of gaming in the United States in recent years that even when the industry loses out in the legislative process, it’s hard not to think it’s only a matter of time before it wins.

There have been a couple of high-profile defeats, or speed bumps if you’re an optimist, lately in Florida and Kentucky, where three destination resorts and seven casinos were respectively on the table. But in each instance, one could see evidence of progress that could pay off long term. In Kentucky, several Republican Senators signed on to a pro-casino measure for the first time, which could complicate matters down the road for die-hard conservative opponents, many of whom chanted chapter and verse from the old morality hymnal that moves fewer voters all the time.

In Florida, the issue of tax rate and gaming product parity for the state’s racetrack gaming operators with any destination resort operators worked its way into the Senate bill and got halfway there (parity on taxes, not product) in the House, where the measure died. Still, the fact that things got even that far was reason enough for hope in some important quarters.

“I think what this does is it levels the playing field and gives us an opportunity to regroup and try to bring this issue back in the right manner next year,” said Dan Adkins of the Mardi Gras Casino and Racetrack.

There are a lot of moving parts in Florida, but anything resembling a consensus on the pari-mutuel side has to be seen as a plus for the inevitable revival of the destination resort discussion. Inevitable not least because of the money funding expansion efforts will continue to flow. Here, we have to acknowledge again the impact of Asian gaming, which is throwing off enough cash to not just keep the conversation going in Florida for years, but perhaps just as remarkable, keep Newt Gingrich’s presidential ambitions alive.

The inevitability aura extends north to New York, where Las Vegas Sands has made known its desire to compete for any fully-integrated gaming business that includes a convention center, a model that they can claim rightful leadership to. What’s happening out there is truly fascinating, globalization flowing every which way, from Asia to the U.S. in the form of Genting and from the U.S. to Asia and back again in the form of Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands.

Of course, things can change again. The economy could improve just enough for politicians to shrink from the heavy lifting that pro-gaming legislation always requires. Or the politics of money could give opponents a new card to play. But such developments are less certain than the continuation of what’s driving the discussion right now; economic need and the financial means to advance the pro-casino argument.



REMEMBERING MATT CONNOR

A lot of you in the tribal gaming sector may remember Matt Connor, who covered the business during its formative years in the 90’s and well into this century, mostly for IGWB, Indian Gaming Business and Casino Journal. Matt passed away last month at the age of 46 after a nearly two-year battle with cancer.

I was privileged to have been his colleague and good friend. I met him when he was 30, and he was already an old soul, someone who understood what it took to lead a happy, meaningful existence, and a writer who not only knew how to get his subjects to talk, but who enjoyed listening to them, which in turn made them talk some more. Tribal gaming, with its great leaders and stories of hope, endurance, tenacity and survival, was a perfect fit for Matt. In our many travels together, we heard speeches and interviewed the likes of Wendell Chino, Phillip Martin, Marge Anderson, Anthony Pico, Rick Hill and Ernie Stevens, just to name a few of the many compelling people we had the opportunity to hear and meet. It was impossible not to be moved and to reflect on some of the bigger questions of life in America.

It wouldn’t surprise me if tribal gaming, which is about many things, not least of which is the importance of home, helped confirm for Matt what he really wanted to do, which was to devote his life to the place he called home. Which he did, returning to his college town of Lock Haven, Pa. And not just live there, but tell stories about it, which he did in the local press for many years. In so doing, I’m sure he reminded and/or enabled many people to know why their home was special, worth preserving and worth nurturing. And, without talking to them, I know he made them laugh, too. A lot. Matt was just good at life. He knew if you followed your heart, heaven just might be something you could get a glimpse of right here, and that there is never a more important time than the present. Rest well, dear friend.