Year ahead critical for expansion of sports betting, AGA president says

During his first year as president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, Bill Miller has had a full plate. Since January, he’s been busy making rounds and developing relationships with leaders in an industry that continues finding ways to thrive in a changing consumer environment.

The Las Vegas Sun recently caught up with Miller to discuss topics including sports betting and the overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act — PASPA — which previously banned wagering in most of the United States.

As we’re now more than a year out from the PASPA decision, what are your thoughts on how the decision has changed the sports betting landscape?

First, it’s important to remember why we pushed to overturn the failed federal ban and allow for legal, transparent sports betting: We wanted to destroy the illegal betting market and the criminal activities it finances, protect consumers from illegal operators and, finally, we wanted to protect the integrity of games and bets.

Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association

Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association

The Supreme Court decision to overturn PASPA was a transformative moment for the gaming industry. It created a new, legal sector that is driving tremendous growth. In the first year alone, legal sports betting revenue in the United States increased by nearly $170 million due to the more than $3 billion in bets placed in the legal market.

The year ahead will be critical to continuing sports betting’s expansion across the country, but most importantly, making sure we get it right. With 18 states plus Washington, D.C., having legalized sports betting, we’re committed to promoting regulation and best practices.

Attitudes about sports betting seem to be changing at warp speed. What do you attribute these changes to and why now?

Part of the public support for sports betting comes from the growing popularity of casino gaming over the past decade. Today, nine in 10 Americans view gaming as a mainstream form of entertainment. Naturally, this enthusiasm extends to sports betting. For years, consumers have wanted to bet on sports legally but were forced toward the illegal market to participate.

Now that sports betting is a legal option in several states, we see adults embracing sports betting as a safe alternative to the vast illegal market that has thrived in this country for decades.

We’ve also seen commercial casino gaming enter more communities over the past 30 years and lay the groundwork for the introduction of legal sports betting.

After experiencing firsthand the social and economic benefits that gaming brings to communities — including greater support for nonprofits and small businesses, employment and wage increases and funding for services and infrastructure — it’s no wonder that so many Americans grew to support the gaming industry’s presence. That’s why lawmakers are now moving quickly to reap the benefits presented by sports betting.

Will the continued proliferation of legal sports wagering affect the Las Vegas market negatively?

Even as legal markets have been established across the country, Nevada continues to be a driving force behind the American casino industry.

Last year was a record-breaking year for casinos in the state, and the its sportsbooks have seen year-over-year growth every month in 2019. The overturn of PASPA has increased sports betting enthusiasm everywhere, bringing vast social and economic benefits to Nevada and beyond.

You were in Las Vegas recently. What was the pulse of the city? What was the vibe you got?

Someone recently told me that the next five years in the gaming industry will be more exciting and more complex than the last 30. I think that’s especially true in Las Vegas.

Over the past few years, Las Vegas has seen more activity than ever from operators and gaming companies expanding their entertainment offerings far beyond the casino floor to include activities for the entire family.

Las Vegas has also been the quintessential example of the convergence of the sports and gaming industries, as shown by professional sports leagues and teams like the Golden Knights and the soon-to-be NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders making homes in the city.

What’s your top priority through 2019 and into the near future?

First, we have a huge opportunity right now when it comes to rolling out legal sports betting, and one of my top priorities is making sure we get it done right.

Second, I’d like to channel the popularity of our industry into political power by developing champions for gaming in communities and in Congress. Finally, I’m focused on modernizing payment options to give consumers choice in how they make purchases at one of our properties.

It’s been just about six months since I started my tenure as president and CEO of the AGA and I could not be more optimistic for what the future holds for the organization and our industry.