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Stateside


Sharon Harris survey the wreckage but, as ever, finds cause for optimism


I


’m old enough that this would have been my 29th year at a Las Vegas gaming trade expo. The original small show in 1992 later morphed into the giant G2E as gaming expanded. I began my gaming journey after working many years


in the amusement industry. Casinos were on the horizon in the early 1990s as tribal and riverboat jurisdictions introduced gaming and I realized opportunity was knocking on my own career door. Many former coin-op colleagues had already transitioned


into this new industry from Chicago and their Silicon Valley locations near San Francisco. It was a natural evolution because so many had impressive equipment manufacturing and marketing experience. Over these 28 years, anyone who is creative and willing to


work has enjoyed abundant opportunities. Up until last March, the future looked almost limitless. Oh, how things changed in a few weeks when Covid-19 hit. Although an in-person G2E was out, the wonders of


technology provided a viable alternative almost unimaginable in 1992. In late October, G2E organizers conducted a virtual three-day expo, complete with expert panels and vendor presentation opportunities. We didn’t have to totally abandon learning and conversation. As media, I participated in the opening session, among


others from AGA President/CEO Bill Miller. He offered a current overview of American gaming, stressing key points: • Over the second half of March, all 980 American casinos closed, shutting down 1.8 million jobs supported by gaming. Within those first four months, gaming states lost $2 billion in tax revenues. Slowly, many casinos reopened under less-than-ideal conditions by summer.


• Optimistic as ever despite Covid-19 restrictions, more than 90 per cent of commercial and tribal casinos have


10 NOVEMBER 2020


reopened and the rebound continues monthly. Ironically because of travel and quarantine restrictions, several states within regional drive-in markets have benefitted and exceeded their pre-pandemic revenues.


• Destination gaming hubs like Las Vegas and Atlantic City face additional challenges, including dark showrooms and limited-capacity restaurants.


• As gaming is among the most highly-regulated American industries, it has always faced increased scrutiny. These new health procedures include thermal cameras for temperature checks, reducing direct contact at hotel counters and eliminating countless property-wide touchpoints. Casinos have also significantly invested in sanitation and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), employee testing and contact tracing capabilities. Bill made great points, but the sad truth is that a global


environment often decreases control over even our own destiny. What happens, both good and bad, on every continent will hit home for the US. The best example is the lack of conventions, the weekday lifeblood of places like Las Vegas, Atlantic City and other tourist regions with big exhibition/meeting centers. As long as they remain dormant, weekday income will stagnate. Trying to change that dynamic, MGM and Las Vegas Sands


have introduced plans to safely relaunch meetings and conventions. I think that is great, but they must consider many other aspects. What about flights into Las Vegas from within the US? Equally important is international travel. Will there be


quarantines once arriving here or upon returning to a home country? Who will place themselves in that situation? Add to that the ever-changing conditions on the ground


for anyone who may travel, even for recreation. Typical people like Norman and I booked a three-country European


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