Gaming industry needs to “go beyond the numbers” to demonstrate its human side

Gaming industry needs to “go beyond the numbers” to demonstrate its human side

Monday, February 5, 2018

The gaming sector should focus less on financial figures and tell more positive stories about the people involved – this was just one of the discussion topics from a joint session on the economic impact of the gaming industry which opened both the International Casino Conference (ICC) and the World Regulatory Briefing (WRB).

Opening the session, moderator Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, said the industry had to look beyond numbers to explain its impact. He said: “Relying solely on numbers has distinct failings, there’s no human face - no entrepreneurs, no families. Numbers alone do not tell the story. The personal story of ‘what if’?”

Pollock introduced panel member Ernie Stevens Jr, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association in the US. He explained that having failed to secure a conventional job in a remote location, the gaming industry had provided him with opportunities. “I was a big kid, 6 feet 4 inches. My mother raised me the same way as my ancestors did so I’ve never had a haircut. I couldn’t find a job pumping gas or washing cars.”

Although tribal elders were initially against gaming, Stevens explained that the National Indians had nevertheless made a success of the jurisdictional frameworks and made Indian gaming work for the communities it serves. “The elders in our world were very much not in favour, now we celebrate how we have adapted around that law,” he said.

Changing perceptions

Adding a European angle to the discussions, panel member Paul Herzfeld, founder of Herzfeld Consulting, identified the shift away from casinos being seen as a “necessary evil.”

He said casinos were usually placed in areas that were outside of cities, for example in German spa town Baden-Baden, and added that there were still no casinos in major cities such as Rome or Paris. With the addition of new developments in Cyprus and Spain, he said public perceptions were beginning to change.

He explained: “In regional areas, employment is provided. We know that the employment numbers generated are usually a multiple of three to six times, as you need suppliers and services. Many casinos also sponsor sports clubs such as amateur clubs, which are important for the regions that they serve. Operators in Europe also help social causes.” 

“It is now a much more accepted industry,” added Herzfeld. “Showing the positive sides of casinos, the whole industry and the effect it has on the areas of developing the economy. That’s definitely the right way to go.”

Threats and opportunities

The panel also talked about the threats and opportunities that online gaming would pose to the industry.

Moderator Michael Pollock posed a question on how traditional gaming could co-exist with borderless online gaming. He said: “In the US there’s a tug of war taking place. States and tribal governments build on exclusivity – but how does that function online?”

Panel member senator William Coley II, Ohio, said it was hard to know the true impact of online on the gaming industry: “You don’t know what you don’t know. Everybody, the pundits say that online will be the death of the big casino facilities. You don’t know that! It does not mean the death of one or the other.”

He added online would not remove the need for human beings to be with other human beings. For example, eSports could be played in large venues but regulations would be needed to ensure fairness for players, such as that there were no hidden codes or invisible blocks which would prevent them from continuing or winning their games.

Trust + technology

The panel discussed how, if structured properly, online gaming could also be used to generate more land-based visits. Coley said: “Brands associated with land-based casinos are dominant. They are recognised, they are trusted and can reward their customers who play on line with points they can spend in their land-based casino.”

Herzfeld said casino operators were well placed to create a safe environment for online gaming as social responsibility was “in their genes. “Reliability and trust are aspects you have to look at. Not just technology.”