State legislators ponder maximizing revenues, competition from neighborsBy Nick Sortal, CDC Gaming ReportsNovember 2, 2017 at 7:58 amBecause almost all gambling decisions in the U.S. are made at the state level, not the federal level, legislators across the country face different situations when it comes to deciding what is best for their state.But there’s one thing in common: how to best maximize tax revenues, and how to stay under control with gambling growth in the face of expanding competition from neighboring states.“Once the gambling train gets going in a state, it doesn’t stop,” said Joe Weinert, vice president of Spectrum Gaming, a gambling consultant and research company based in Linwood, New Jersey. “They’re always seeking more revenue.” Forty-two states in the nation have some form of gambling.Spectrum Gaming has again organized three days of education for state legislators, for the upcoming conference of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS). The conference is in Miami, January 5-7. American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman will give the keynote address.NCLGS is non-partisan and is neutral on gambling expansion – as is Spectrum Gaming, Weinert points out. Spectrum took over administration of NCLGS about three years ago.“It’s been Spectrum’s mission to increase the visibility and prominence of what we believe is an excellent organization and an excellent conference,” Weinert said. “The conference is by the legislators largely for legislators.”For instance, last year a delegation of legislators from Georgia attended a NCLGS meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, even though Georgia has no gambling. “There has been an ongoing discussion about legalizing gaming, so they were soaking it all in,” Weinert said.Because state legislators have multiple issues to face, their level of knowledge on the nuances of gambling can be quite varied. “Some of the legislators are very conversant on gaming,” Weinert said. “They really know the deep-down story and they like getting into the weeds. Others don’t know much but they come there to learn and the come there to be conversant on a topic that’s in almost every state is important, whether it is lottery, casino or pari-mutuels.”Weinert said it’s vital for legislators to keep on top of the news. “When one state acts, another state is going to react, both to protect their own revenue stream and to find additional revenues,” Weinert said. “They get ideas from the other states.”Weinert cited the state of Pennsylvania, which created satellite casinos. “I think you’re going to see come copycats,” he said.States also can create revenues by negotiating compacts with Native American tribes. “The compacts keep a lot of lawyers very busy,” Weinert said.Regarding the conference, Weinert said “The legislators come here and they come to learn from other states and to learn from experts in the field whether it’s gaming suppliers, operators analysts.” Because regulations vary from state to state, conversing with legislators from other states “gives the legislators a bigger picture of what’s available,” he said.“States are looking for additional revenue sources and particularly with an aging patron base that’s been the bedrock of slot machines,” Weinert said. “Legislators want to understand that there’s a new generation of gambling games that can either supplant revenue when the current base dies or perhaps generate additional revenue with exciting options.”One session will address the question of whether lotteries and casinos will converge as both seek online presence. “More and more, the various types of gambling are connected, to the point where in some cases they’re convergent,” Weinert said. “It’s important the legislators and states with gambling understand the whole picture and take a holistic view.”For example, right now there are historical horse racing machines, which are designed to play similar to a slot machine – making for a pari-mutuel game that’s like a slot machine.There are also lotteries with video lottery terminals, which are also like slot machines. And lotteries and casinos are both putting their games online, all of which could make patrons wonder what the difference is.More information is at NCLGS.org.