Gambling industry CEOs wary of future troubles while celebrating Las Vegas success

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Two prominent casino company CEOs said on Tuesday they were glad Southern Nevada was on pace with a record industry rebound, but they remained cautious about economic uncertainties that could hurt the future.

Derek Stevens, owner of Circa in downtown Las Vegas, and Craig Billings, the newest CEO of Wynn Resorts Ltd., kicked off the main events of the four-day Global Gaming Expo at The Venetian.

Stevens and Billings were among six CEOs interviewed on stage by CNBC anchor Contessa Brewer. They followed a quick state-of-the-industry address from American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller, who celebrated two years of growth that eclipsed the problems on the horizon.

Billings, who succeeded Matt Maddox as CEO of Wynn nearly nine months ago, said he was pleased with Las Vegas’ results, even though the tourism economy has not fully recovered.

“Vegas has been a great story,” Billings said. “The city is doing very well in finding additional sources of demand. We’ve had record ADRs (average daily room rates), excellent occupancy, our food and beverages, our theatre… everything is running on multiple cylinders.

But he admitted that the company’s operations in Macau have been a huge disappointment as the company prepares for license renewals later this year.

Stevens said he was unsure Circa, which opened in 2020, could be built today under existing economic conditions.

“You would have to be more conservative today than three years ago (when construction was underway),” Stevens said. “The market is tight and labor is affecting restaurant operations. Some restaurants have to spend five or six days (operations) or just one dinner because labor has been an issue since 2019. And whoever says inflation is transitory, I don’t think that’s the case. There’s going to be built-in inflation that’s going to last for quite a while. »

Stevens and Billings believe security, cybersecurity, and water resources are the top issues facing southern Nevada.

“Security is a societal issue and Las Vegas is not immune to societal issues,” Billings said. “But between our surveillance infrastructure and the subway (police), it’s hard to find a safer place than the Strip.”

Miller, in his industry keynote, listed other concerns the gaming industry needs to be wary of and which will be the focus of the AGM in the coming months.

Miller said the biggest problem facing the industry is the illegal operation of unlicensed websites and gaming machines.

“The future of our industry depends on fighting our greatest threat: the illegal and unregulated market. Illegal and unregulated websites and machines pose a direct threat to our industry’s hard-earned regulatory licensed operators,” he said. “They prey on customers, especially vulnerable and underage people. They provide no consumer protection and don’t invest a penny in responsible gambling.

Miller said $300 billion is bet illegally every year, resulting in a loss of $15 billion for legal operators and a loss of $4 billion in gambling taxes.

Miller also encouraged the industry to embrace the digital future and focus more on responsible gambling.

“Online gaming, whether it’s sports betting or iGaming, is our fastest growing segment,” he said. “Payment modernization is well underway and new technologies continue to emerge. The truth is, they often raise more questions than answers, but that has never stopped this industry before.

He said the AGA would continue to meet regularly with advocates, researchers, regulators and industry leaders to “explore wide-ranging questions, including how we should modernize responsible gambling for the gambling market.” ‘today”.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at [email protected] or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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