With 2018 almost over, it’s time to consider just what the biggest news-makers were for the casino industry in that year. 2018 did not lack for either headlines or significant changes in the gaming industry, which continues to adapt to changing social and economic realities.
The Global Gaming Expo featured many innovations that casino operators looked to adopt. Photo: D.G. Schwartz.David G. Schwartz
- Steve Wynn exits Wynn Resorts. He’s widely hailed as the man who created modern Las Vegas. Certainly without the resorts he built—Golden Nugget, Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, Wynn, and Encore—Las Vegas would look much different today. The Mirage changed the paradigm of what a casino resort should be, paving the way for the mega-resort era of the 1990s. His leaving Wynn Resorts is unquestionably a big deal.With or without Wynn, the Las Vegas Strip would have grown in the 1990s. Without him, though, new resorts would have tended more to the Excalibur than Caesars Palace. After all, Circus Circus Enterprises was wildly profitable, while Caesars was a takeover target of none other than Donald Trump (among others) before being acquired by ITT in 1995. Hence the skepticism, which was widespread, over the potential profitability of The Mirage. Without Wynn’s design sensibilities and financial savvy to prove it could be done, the concept of an integrated mass luxury resort with a non-gaming emphasis might not have caught on.
So Wynn’s departure from the company that bears his name and has continued to lead the market in many ways is significant.
- Sports betting comes to you! The second earth-shaking story of 2018 was the Supreme Court’s strikedown of PASPA, the 1992 legislation that had kept states outside of Nevada from legalizing new sports betting. Since May, Delaware has started offering straight-up sports wagering (it had previously been offering only multi-game parlays) and New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Rhode Island have begun offering sports betting.From an absolute dollar standpoint, sports betting has not meant much…yet. Case in point: in October, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, and West Virginia (combined population 14 million) earned about half of Nevada’s total sports betting win. Nevada’s population is about three million. The key is in how sports betting fits in with the rest of the state’s gambling offerings. In October, sports betting accounted for less than three percent of Nevada’s total gaming revenue. In New Jersey, it provides almost five percent of revenues, indicating that sports betting has the potential to be a much larger part of the revenue mix in markets outside of Nevada. This explains why gambling operators and manufacturers alike have raced to get involved in sports betting. While it isn’t a large piece of the revenue pie at present, it is a growing piece, which is often more important to shareholders.