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Stateside


Sharon Harris wishes you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR


H


ow different is the world and casino gaming today from 10 or 20 years ago? In 1999, the world worried that Y2K would cause a total global computer network catastrophe going into 2000. The angst was unnecessary…


everything went smoothly. Two decades have changed life, business and gaming almost beyond recognition. Advanced technology is one reason, but only a part of this cultural swing as consumer expectations and interests have evolved. Gaming is now so mainstream nationwide, excluding


Hawaii and Utah, that people don’t feel as compelled to gamble when they have the chance. Where enjoying legalized gaming 20 years ago was often challenging, finding an American region without gaming is almost impossible in 2020.


Not so in South America. Norman and I recently cruised from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Rio de Janiero in Brazil. Buenos Aires is a fabulous, vibrant city with numerous casinos. Brazil ranked second for us. We loved our day in Rio, but the country has real economic issues. Its underground, antiquated gaming network is unlike legalized gaming in much of South America. After World War II, Brazil banned land-based casinos in


1946. Lawmakers wanted to prevent what they perceived as corruption, organized crime, money laundering and prostitution. More than 70 years later, technology may force their hand. The skyrocketing underground online marketplace, unimaginable in the 1940s, pays nothing in taxes. Offshore operators are often dishonest and face few, if any, consequences.


12 JANUARY 2020


In 2020, lawmakers could fast-track “Brazil Agenda” to legalize all physical and online gambling. Brazil’s growing recognition that an underground market damages everyone is reminiscent of the US in the 1990s. At my first Internet gaming conference in Washington


D.C. in late 1997, the panel discussions were similar to today. They wanted to create stronger regulations, prevent money laundering, increase oversight and legal action while training regulators and law enforcement to stop or minimize unscrupulous operators. Thanks to AGA’s earliest leadership, both Frank


Fahrenkopf Jr. and Geoff Freeman aimed to embrace the newest technology while focusing on eliminating its potentially-negative repercussions. I hope Brazil does the same.


The good job done by the US and other countries has


altered the public’s perspective on gaming. Most of the guests on our 700-passenger ship were American, but hundreds also came from the UK, Germany, Canada and other countries with legalized gambling. Was there a cause and effect? I think so. When the


ship’s casino was open for business, I never saw more than 15-20 people playing at the tables or slot machines. International law prohibits gambling when the ship in port, but once it sails, the betting may begin. Obviously, itineraries with more sea days generate more gambling, but I saw what I considered complacency. This upper-tier cruise line operated some older slot equipment, unequal to what passengers could find on their own local gaming floors. Many machines featured technology and themes from years ago. Also, there was only one table each for poker, blackjack and craps. This scene was unlike my first cruise – on a much


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