With US iGaming performance figures underwhelming the industry in 2014, SBC and ICE caught up with Bill Pascrell III to discuss the current state of US federal legislation and policy concerning the igaming and whether there can be any market and federal progress for the industry in 2015
A partner with the Princeton Public Affairs Group Inc, Pascrell III has had a prominent career in state and federal public affairs, working for New Jersey State and Congress. Pascrell III has also represented the US interests of several gambling operators.
Pascrell III will discuss US igaming issues and factors at the World Regulatory Briefing at ICE 2015.
SBC: Hi Bill, great to interview you for ICE 2015. Going into a new year how are the federal and market conditions being set for the igaming industry to progress in the USA?
Bill: There is no federal involvement at the moment. There still continues to be a push by Sheldon Adelson and other self-interested parties to ban igaming through federal legislation but they have not gained traction yet.
However their continued lobbying efforts in Washington, DC requires the industry to wake-up, organize and push back. The bulk of the igaming industry in the US is based in Europe, they are very smart and are continuing to become familiar with US culture. They are not well versed however in American politics. Right now the action for igaming is at the state level. So while defence is needed at the federal level to prevent a prohibition from passing Congress, a real offensive campaign is needed at the state level in the major states with size and opportunity to pass a bill to help build liquidity and grow the US market. The US market is in its nascent form.
As we enter the 2nd year of the industry in the US, there continues to be advances in marketing, payment processing and player aquisition that will help to set the foundation to expand the market. A tremendous amount of credit should go to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the DGE for their strong and steady leadership. Any state serious about pursuing on line gaming is looking at New Jersey as a model for their launch.
SBC: 2014 was an under whelming year for igaming operators in the US and especially with regards to New Jersey revenues and performance? Do you believe that operators and legislators were too optimistic in the market and what it could achieve?
Bill: This was a problem throughout the industry with regards to New Jersey’s market as politicians, operators and analysts were all overly optimistic about the size of the market in the initial roll out year. Its not proper to measure the success of the industry based on those silly and potentially reckless forecasts. The criticism should not be on the indsutry but should be focused on the credibility of those forecasts or lack thereof.
So far the regulatory framework has been excellent. Much credit needs to go the the New Jersey DGE and its leadership on this issue. No recorded breaches of geo-location or age verification. The US market will grow, but like any new emerging market it will take time
SBC: At present do US igaming regulators, legislators, lobbyists and stakeholders have a common goal for igaming in the US and how the industry can progress and create growth?
Bill: Sadly no but all stakeholders should make this a priority, as the US online gaming industry looks to build and grow, I believe it will be more aligned in the future.
The US market needs to start an organized effort to bring the industry together to pursue common goals and common realistic objectives. I am working hard to build a trade association to do just that. The first goal is to launch a set of standards and codes of conduct for business practice.
SBC: Is the slow progress of achieving federal state wide online igaming legislation effecting US market interest for international operators? Can US igaming survive another stagnant year with little progress?
Bill: The reality is that the US is several years away from any real federal legislation regulating on line gaming policy. For the past 75 years the US federal government has relegated their authority on gaming issues to the states. I don’t see that changing with respect to igaming any time soon. However, once other states start to join New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada it will become a domino effect building liquidity and a stronger US market. More progress will be made in 2015 and as each year passes it will grow and become more strong and vibrant.
SBC: Focus has now shifted to Amaya Gaming’s PokerStars entering US state igaming markets. Is there too much hype surrounding the operator and its US performance?
Bill: Amaya Gaming is a young and unproven company, however their acquisition of PokerStars was a bold and ground-breaking move. Their entery into US market is transformational as they bring a top tier igaming product in PokerStars.. In every market across the globe PokerStars has become the dominant majority force with one or two exceptions. When they finally enter the US market through New Jersey it should be a very positive event that will only help build the industry and improve certain aspects. It will also require every other platform to step up their game and work harder to build the market.
SBC: In terms of US igaming services and their progress what key factors and discussion should dominate industry agenda in 2015?
Bill: I truly believe in the future of the US i-gaming market and its long term growth. In 2015 we need to focus on payment processing, inter-state compacting and international liquidity building and finally doing a much better job at marketing and branding the igaming industry and its services in the US.
Bill Pascrell III