SBC Digital Summit to tackle state legislative gaming efforts in aftermath of COVID-19 Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports · April 21, 2020 at 6:30 am More than 20 states have passed legislation allowing sports betting in the two years since the U.S. Supreme Court gave the go-ahead and more are moving in that direction. However, George Rover, managing partner with Princeton Global Strategies and former deputy director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, said some state legislatures are likely having regrets they didn’t go further to include online gaming. Rover will moderate a panel that will update state legislative gaming efforts for 2020 as part of the SBC Digital Summit scheduled for April 27th to May 1st. The shutdown of land-based casinos across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic has deprived gaming companies and state coffers of revenue. Even the implementation of mobile sports betting in some states has done little to make up for the cancellation of most sporting events across the globe. Only three states — New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware — allow online casinos. Michigan approved both sports betting and online casinos in December and sports wagers started in March before the shutdown. Online gaming, however, isn’t scheduled to roll out until 2021. New Jersey has already seen the benefit, despite overall gaming revenues being down for March with brick-and-mortar casinos shuttered. Online casinos and poker rooms set a record in March with $64.8 million in revenue, up by two-thirds from March 2019. “One of the questions that will come up is that a lot of states have been approving sports wagering, but not online casinos,” Rover said. “Maybe the pandemic causes states to think we shouldn’t just be doing sports betting. It has left them in the lurch and who’s to say this doesn’t happen again? To be able to fall back on online casinos seems like a necessary diversification. I’m sure Michigan wished their timing was a little different.” Adam Greenblatt, CEO of Roar Digital, a U.S.-based interactive wagering platform through BetMGM who will be a panelist at the conference, said there has been an influx to Igaming from both traditional casino players and sports bettors. Roar Digital is a joint venture of MGM Resorts International and United Kingdom-based GVC Holdings and has evolved to include retail and/or digital operations in five states. “(Online casino gaming) has been really strong and surpassing even my most bright-side expectations,” Greenblatt said. “But what happens when sports come back. Is the growth in Igaming a transfer of activity and wallet share from sports to Igaming? Are the new entrants to the Igaming market people who come and stay and enjoy the experience and continue to play when we are out of COVID or this is a unique period of time and things will settle down to the way things were when this is over? I don’t know, but I think it will be longer-lasting. The convenience and fun of the product — once players have experienced it — will be part of their spend. And the retail will pick up to get that different experience.” The question is, what will be the capacity for discretionary spending once the coronavirus ends, Greenblatt said. People are struggling with rising joblessness and are more financially insecure than before. “The bigger question mark is people’s attitudes toward spending once we get out of this,” Greenblatt said. “This has been quite a rude awakening for many people who realize they weren’t, perhaps, as prepared to have no income for a period. With that emotional and intellectual realization comes a different attitude toward savings and discretionary spending. These are unknowables at this point.” Martin Lycka, director of regulatory affairs for GVC Holdings, said the conference will give industry leaders a chance to air their views on what changes will be needed as a result of the crisis and whether there will be more of a shift to online gaming. “I don’t have the exact answers to these questions yet, but I can imagine at least some people might be a bit more apprehensive about leaving their houses or traveling too far and going back to casinos, sports arenas and race tracks,” Lycka said. “They might be thinking that by doing so, they would be exposed to the risk of a renewed outbreak. That is one of the key points that will be discussed at the conference. I think it will be temporary, but it will remain in the back of people’s minds. Once we come out of the other end of the crisis, there will be some like a World War II-style victory celebration.” Greenblatt said the drop-off in sports betting in the U.S. has been much greater than in international markets, because of the shutdown of American sports on which bettors focus. There are other products out there, such as Nicaraguan soccer, darts, eSports and ping pong. Nevada has even started taking bets on the eNASCAR series and last week approved wagering on four eSports events. “We’re trying everything,” Greenblatt said. “The betting markets are extremely thin, so as a matter of risk management, we can’t take big bets. If someone wants to put $20,000 on an eSports event, it’s not going to happen. It’s never going to replace our (other) business, but we have to be visible to our customers with engagement. We offered a bracket game on the NBA2K that aired on ESPN and put some money behind the prize. We had a few thousand people play, which was great, but it’s not the same thing.” To register, go to https://sbcevents.com/sbc-digital-summit/tickets/.