The headlines and press releases scream at us from all directions: More change is coming, so be prepared as the gaming industry rushes headlong into the new century. (At this point, we are referring to the 22nd century, not the 21st.)
Consider the following statement in a press release from the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS): “As the gaming industry expands, the policy issues that lawmakers and regulators must confront will grow more challenging, and NCLGS is committed to addressing those issues to the benefit of our members and their states,” said NCLGS President Bill Galvano, a senator from Florida and an established leader on gaming issues. Galvano is expected to serve as the president of the Florida Senate from 2018-2020.
Galvano is correct. The buck stops with legislators, those elected officials charged with establishing the policies that govern this industry, and who must oversee all changes to ensure that the industry does not lose sight of its core mission: to act responsibly, with integrity and to keep the public interest in mind as operators pursue their own goals.
While legislators have that responsibility, it is also vital for those of us who work in and around this industry to recognize something else: legislators—and the regulatory agencies they create, fund and oversee—deserve credit as well.
Lawmakers in all states keep one eye on the future, but they also keep one eye on the past. They recognize that the basis for all this change is attributable to far more than new technologies. Indeed, the technologies that legislators and regulators are focused on in 2017 were not even conceivable when the modern age of gaming began.
The core basis for this rapid change in gaming stems from a timeless principle, espoused quite clearly when New Jersey lawmakers wrote the Casino Control Act in 1977, precisely 40 years ago. That legislation made it clear that a gaming license is a privilege, not a right, and that gaming operators, suppliers, financial sources and managers must adhere to the highest standards of good character, honesty and integrity.
That concept is not a slogan, but is a reality. For 40 years, and in 42 states (and counting), regulators are ensuring that integrity remains at the core of gaming. That reality allows regulators to consider adopting and approving new technologies and ideas—from iGaming to eSports—without losing the trust of the public.
It’s no coincidence that the same state that adopted that landmark statute in 1977 is among the leading states in approving new technologies. Leaders such as New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director Dave Rebuck, who recently spoke at the East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City, can move quickly because they know that their legislators and the public have their back.
Michael Pollock of Spectrum Gaming Group (which manages NCLGS) wrote recently that “Policies that range from tax rates to the number of licensees to the overall regulatory framework must keep pace with change, and those policies need to adapt to these changes to ensure that gaming continues to serve the public interest. Moreover, this is valid for local, state and national governments.” Leaders like Galvano and organizations such as NCLGS understand the fundamental relationship between adhering to timeless principles and operating in a timely fashion to adapt to changing times.
I give due credit to gaming operators and suppliers who develop these new technologies, and who adhere as well to the notion that a gaming license is a privilege. When they develop appropriate controls and assurances within their technologies that prevent cheating or that limit problem gambling, they are doing their jobs in the right way. If this industry is to continue operating in a timely fashion, with new offerings that appeal to Millennials and other emerging generations, they can never lose sight of that core, founding principle.
Change may be constant, but it is not a given.