"An opportunity for growth"

Nevada: MGM CEO advocates for "necessary" online casino gaming regulation

Bill Hornbuckle, CEO of MGM Resorts International, and AGA's CEO Bill Miller at IndyFest 2021 on Sunday.
Reading time 4:07 min
Foreseeing a "billion dollars in gaming revenue next year" through the BetMGM platform, Bill Hornbuckle spoke about the market saturation for traditional Las Vegas Strip land-based casinos, and assured there are ways to regulate online gaming without interfering with brick and mortar casino's figures, while allowing the state to seize the global opportunity it represents.

MGM Resorts International CEO, Bill Hornbuckle has made it clear that he deems the Nevada’s gaming industry to be “missing a significant opportunity for growth” as it remains reluctant to legalize online casino gaming.

Hornbuckle assures that there is a “whole contingent of folks” in the state who own brick and mortar casinos and do not favor legalizing internet casino gaming. During a panel discussion with AGA's CEO Bill Miller at IndyFest, The Nevada Independent’s annual conference centered on political and policy issues, MGM’s CEO said: “If you look at what the opportunity could be, I look forward to just talking more about all of it. It could be significant not only for the state but for the industry and nationally, and potentially even on a global basis”. 

Hornbuckle explained that MGM Resorts expects to take in “a billion-dollars in net gaming revenue next year” through the company’s sports betting and Internet gaming platform, BetMGM, which operates online casinos in the five states where the activity is legal: New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia. 

According to The Nevada Independent, Hornbuckle believes online casino expansion in Nevada is necessary due to the market saturation for traditional Las Vegas Strip brick and mortar casinos.

“The economics are upside down. This has been the capital of the gaming universe for decades, and we are losing. We are not going to see a new brick and mortar casino here for a long, long time”, he stated. 

“We’re not interested in my mother sitting on her couch in Henderson, gaming, that’s not what we're after. We're after a global business and we are going to miss this opportunity if we don't quickly get on board”, Hornbuckle analyzed, and assured that there are ways to open the online business in the state without jeopardizing the local casino market

There's a way to protect our industry and still let it grow and do other things. Hopefully, the Gaming Commission will get us to a different place. The laws are in place. We need the regulators to put the appropriate regulation in place, to let us go forward. Along the way we can talk about local interests because I get it, it's real”, he said.

MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle.

Even though Nevada legalized Internet poker in 2013, there is only one active site, which is operated by Caesars Entertainment and is based on the World Series of Poker. In August, a contingent of large and small gaming operators led by Station Casinos opposed expanding the state’s online gaming regulations, alleging these changes should be treated by the governor’s Gaming Policy Committee and later approved by the state lawmakers. 

A workshop hearing to discuss potential regulation changes allowing the state to offer full online casino gaming was postponed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, as they decided to wait until after the legislature adjourned in June. However, it has not been rescheduled. 

In terms of sports betting, American Gaming Association CEO Bill Miller, who also participated in the panel discussion, agreed that in-person registration is “very backwards”, following Hornbuckle’s inclination towards online registration

Bill Miller, American Gaming Association CEO and President.

In most states with both retail sportsbook and online sports wagering, mobile accounts for upward of 80 to 90% of all wagers. According to Miller, Tennessee is 100% mobile sports wagering, and does not offer a retail component. In Nevada, more than 69% of all sports wagers were placed on mobile apps during August. 

“The old way of thinking was the only way we are able to gain customers is to get them on the property,” Miller said. “The reality is you have to create a larger pie which includes different things off property. The brand brings them to property.”

Following Hornbuckle’s ideas of virtual wagering, Miller pointed out that the gaming industry’s nationwide casino shutdown because of COVID-19 led to increased activity on legal internet casino websites, particularly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where revenue spike did not subside as casinos reopened. 

Miller said traditional casino operators, who “believed that mobility would kill brick and mortar,” now recognize that was not the case and that online gaming and traditional casinos “could be complimentary.”

According to nationwide revenue figures compiled by the AGA, the five states with online casinos produced nearly $2 billion in revenue in the first seven months of 2021. Meanwhile, commercial casinos in many states are reporting gaming revenue figures near or above pre-pandemic totals from 2019. Still, online gaming is just 5 percent of the commercial casino industry’s revenue total.

In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance, Bill Hornbuckle also gave an insight on the possibility of the Chinese crackdown crimping profits in Macau, and said he does not view it as “a major challenge”. He dismissed concerns that China’s new regulatory attempts to exert tighter controls in the gambling enclave would alter growth opportunities in the market. 

Hornbuckle said that “I’m not and we’re not overreacting to what is being hyped or said. We are hoping rational minds control in the end because this is the Macau economy”. However, MGM is already looking beyond Macau for its next move in the Asian market. Last week, the company was selected - along with its joint venture partner, Orix - by the prefecture of Osaka, Japan, to be the region’s integrated resort partner. 

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