At the highest levels, competitive casino industry evolves in real time By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports March 4, 2019 at 8:00 pm For those immersed in the Las Vegas casino success story, change in the industry has felt more plodding and generational than rapid and revolutionary. These days, however, you can watch the evolution as it happens. The examples are everywhere, and most noticeable in the rapid expansion of legalized sports betting in the wake of last year’s repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) by the United States Supreme Court. But as hard as it is for some of us to believe, a new state or sports league embracing legal and regulated bookmaking wouldn’t even make the front page of a casino industry website. Nevada Gaming Commission members Phil Pro, left, Tony Alamo, chairman, and John Moran Jr. list while Wynn Resort executive, CEO Matt Maddox, testifies during a sexual misconduct hearing at the Nevada Gaming Commission on Feb. 26. (Jeff Scheid-Nevada Independent) Closer to home, the Nevada Gaming Commission’s unanimous decision to levy a record $20 million fine against Wynn Resorts for not doing enough to address the alleged sexual harassment issues swirling around former co-founder and Chairman Steve Wynn are nothing short of a clarion call for casino corporations to end their frat house traditions. Although the company under the leadership of Wynn’s former wife, Elaine Wynn, cleaned house throughout the corporate structure, the commission was compelled to make a statement. Consider it delivered. Some observers have tied this change to the #MeToo movement and other high-profile cases of CEOs playing Caligula at the expense of employees and subordinates, but that’s wrongheaded and insensitive. The fact is the male-dominated industry has been decades behind the times when it comes to employee issues, ranging from the objectification of women to the marginalization of minorities. Others believe this whopping fine will have an impact on the company’s multibillion-dollar Boston Harbor project, and it may. But it also shows regulatory counterparts in Massachusetts that Nevada can lead on difficult and politically sensitive issues. Although informed gaming sources say Steve Wynn hasn’t heard the last of Nevada’s gaming regulators, it’s a new day in Nevada’s largest industry. If that were all that’s happening on Las Vegas Boulevard it would be plenty. But last week CDC Gaming Reports Executive Editor Howard Stutz broke a story focused on the delicate medical condition of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and undisputed casino king Sheldon Adelson. The grand sugar daddy of the Republican Party has faced many medical challenges in recent years, but the news that the octogenarian is now being treated for cancer has focused renewed attention on the future of the company as a potentially costly civil trial approaches. Frankly, the concern may be overblown. Sands has had a lot of stability thanks in large part to company President Rob Goldstein. And, let’s face it. Thanks to its gargantuan success in Macau, Las Vegas Sands’ cash flow is stout. The infrastructure of the company is something others can only envy. Perhaps nowhere in the industry are the signs of impending change more obvious than inside Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant that managed to maneuver through a two-year, $18 billion Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization and come out the other side. Now it finds multibillionaire activist investor Carl Icahn not just at the door but measuring drapes in the corporate board room. Some who have followed the tumultuous journey of the Caesars brand remember a time not so long ago when any thought of parting it out and selling it off would have been a laughable idea. But Icahn, industry insiders enthuse, is all about shaking up the status quo and maximizing profits. Over at MGM Resorts International, the company has embarked on its MGM 2020 plan with a new team of vice presidents in an attempt to keep up with changes in the industry. MGM has aggressively pursued contracts with professional sports teams as it presses into the new legal bookmaking frontiers. All the changes and developments, some of which would have been unheard of as few as 18 months ago, are a reminder that the gaming industry continues to evolve as it takes on an increasingly high profile in American business. Contact John L. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.