2018: An amazing year in gaming going, going, gone By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports December 29, 2018 at 3:00 pm “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.” — Vin Scully The great Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully was talking about the dramatic game-winning home run Kirk Gibson hit in the 1988 World Series, but I can think of no better way to describe some of the eye-popping events that occurred in the gaming industry in 2018. The fireworks synonymous with New Year’s Eve are merely firecrackers compared to the explosions that took place as the casino industry stretched its political influence and its corporate footprint with an unprecedented ally in Washington D.C., and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA.) Phil Ruffin, Steve Wynn and Donald Trump in a 2005 photo. The PASPA decision opened the door to legalized sports betting on a state-by-state basis, and there was an immediate ripple effect through the industry and the professional sports leagues that not so long ago scoffed at the notion of ever partnering with the bookmakers. Although Nevada’s legal industry processed $4.8 billion in wagers in 2017, an estimated $150 billion annually is bet illegally on sporting events. The prospects of carving a healthy piece of that illegal pie, duly taxed and regulated, makes big business sense for the operators and the leagues. And, frankly, an America that willing to offer its citizens the gambling lie of the legalized lottery had no practical business continuing to vilify sports betting. If that had been the only news of the year, 2018 would have been historically important for gaming. Sports betting has been the last pariah wagering activity in a country that has otherwise largely endorsed gambling as entertainment. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson at President Trump’s inauguration in 2017. But the gaming industry also saw casino moguls Sheldon Adelson, Steve Wynn, and Phil Ruffin emerge as high-profile friends and embracers of President Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again” mantra. Trump failed as an Atlantic City casino king, but his laissez-faire approach to taxes and regulation was a potential boon for the industry. To say the results have been mixed is an understatement, but it’s too late for second thoughts. Adelson, Wynn and Ruffin are in the Team Trump photo, and 2019 holds the promise of great tumult at the top of our government. That brings us to easily one of the most troubling stories of the year, the accusations of rampant sexual harassment and worse by casino king Wynn, who is credited with casino design breakthroughs and high concepts that helped reinvent Las Vegas more than once. After the Wall Street Journal in January quoted multiple women accusing him of egregious behavior, he was not long for the company he created. It was later revealed that he’d paid $7.5 million to settle a private issue with a Wynn Las Vegas manicurist. Now only his name remains in the Las Vegas casino he built. Although Wynn remains a multi-billionaire and is said to be focusing his attention on the art world, he turns 77 in January and has a team of attorneys battling with Massachusetts gaming officials to keep details of the manicurist settlement private. He’s mired in litigation at a time of life he might have been taking a victory lap around the bases. But that takes us to one of the best stories of the year for the gaming industry: 2018 will also be remembered as the year workplace sexual harassment became a real issue inside the historically chauvinistic corporate culture. It’s an important development and is part of the rise of women generally in the industry. Some hit home runs, others swung and missed, but America’s most intriguing game continues. Expect the improbable in 2019, and don’t be surprised to see the impossible. Contact John L. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. On twitter: @jlnevadasmith.