The Midwest Gaming Summit, held June 3-4 at the Westin O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill., drew over 250 attendees, who were able to get a comprehensive view on the region’s growth opportunities and the potential accompanying risks.
Headlining the program were keynoters David Patent, president and chief operating officer, Rush Street Gaming and Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), a statehouse legislator who has led for many years on the issue of gaming expansion in Illinois. The conference program featured over 25 speakers on sessions covering such topics as a regional market overview from commercial, tribal and racetrack gaming operators such as Caesars, Firekeepers and Hoosier Park; Wall Street’s view of gaming opportunities in the region; Illinois’s fledgling video gaming terminal markets; Midwest gaming marketing strategies and legislative updates from jurisdictions across the region. The Summit also offered numerous networking opportunities on its sold-out exhibit floor, which features products and services from 21 companies.
Patent set an appropriate tone for the meeting, with a responsible growth message, which was embraced by other speakers from across the region, noting that the addition of Rush Street’s nearby Rivers Casino had reversed a four-year statewide revenue decline, adding a total of $277 million in Illinois gaming revenue from 2010 to 2012. Patent, noting the latest failed gaming expansion legislative effort in Springfield, acknowledged there was room for some additional casino gaming supply, but that existing operators needed to be compensated with lower tax rates, tax-free free play and more gaming positions, which are presently capped at 1,200 per facility.
Dan Nita, regional president and general manager of Caesars Entertainment, based in Hammond, Ind., sounded a more cautionary note on expansion, noting that the Illinois gaming bill that was recently considered by the legislature could have more than doubled the total number of gaming machines in the state while revenue-per-position had declined $10,000 annually from 2008 to 2012.
Lang, for his part, signaled a commitment by pro-gaming forces in the Illinois Legislature to continue to push for a gaming expansion bill that would include a Chicago casino, adding slots at racetracks and additional casino licenses.