State lawmakers from around the US come to be educated about legal online gambling at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS). That’s where they’ll be from July 12 to 15. So Bonus asked NCLGS President-elect Shawn Fluharty what they’ll be discussing.
As the organization’s name implies, Fluharty is a state lawmaker from a jurisdiction with an active legal gambling marketplace. State Del. Fluharty, D-Ohio County, is the minority whip of the West Virginia House.
Connecticut, Georgia, and Indiana leaders round out the NCLGS leadership.
They, too, are lookalikes for the hundreds of NCLGS attendees who will populate the Sheraton Denver Downtown in July.
Conferees may resemble Fluharty, hailing from a full-service legal online gambling state. Only Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia offer legal US online casino gambling. (Nevada has legal online poker games.)
Or they may be more like NCLGS Treasurer Al Williams‘ state. State Rep. Williams, D-Midway, hails from the Peach State. Its legal form of gambling is the Georgia Lottery, with $310 million in iLottery sales in 2022.
Meanwhile, the Georgia General Assembly adjourned without passing legal sports betting.
Similarly, it appears as though no state legislatures will pass online casino bills in 2023.
Most proposed legislation encountered cannibalization objections, with opponents claiming online casino gambling would pull revenue from retail casinos. That’s a claim legal online gambling operators say is false.
Those matters are on the NCLGS meeting agenda. However, conferees will be hearing from a broader range of gaming stakeholders than fellow state legislators. Online gambling operators, vendors, and regulators are among the scheduled speakers.
Meanwhile, Linwood, NJ-based Spectrum Gaming Group (SGG) is the NCLGS “executive director.” SGG describes itself as a “non-partisan consultancy that specializes in the economics, regulation and policy of legalized gambling worldwide.”
Bonus Q&A With Fluharty
Fluharty discussed the status of legal gambling, concentrating on legal online gambling. Bonus also asked him about priorities for his state.
West Virginia legalized online casino, poker, and sports betting in May 2019 and the marketplace launched a year later.
Bonus questions are in bold and Fluharty’s answers follow.
How vital is NCLGS to educating state lawmakers about legal online gambling?
It’s vital – we have regulators, legislators, and outside stakeholders that all are wondering when the next state will legalize and conversely why the process is slower than sports betting.
I have spoken at many conferences, including NCLGS, and point [to] the golf analogy “Drive for Show, Putt for Dough” and tell lawmakers “Sports Betting for Show, iGaming for Dough.”
Many states are forecasting a downturn in revenue. iGaming is a better revenue generator, it just doesn’t have the publicity or following of sports betting.
Thus, educating lawmakers is an absolute necessity. We have two sessions at NCLGS that will touch on this – My Casino Committee will talk about it. And we have another session regarding iGaming – 2023 iGaming Legislative Recap + Discussion on the Opportunities and Challenges of the Legalization of iGaming: “Review of complete and ongoing legislative sessions. Lessons learned and what the key issues legislators are being confronted with when considering iGaming legislation.”
[NCLGS President and Indiana] Sen. [Jon] Ford will chair [that session] along with industry and legislators from states such as IA, NH. In addition, I will help chair a regulator/legislator roundtable that will have this as a top agenda item.
Will there be a session on cannibalization?
No, but the iGaming and Casino panels will cover the issue. Now that we have years of data it is clear: iGaming does not cannibalize the brick and mortar facilities. Previous predictions were incorrect and now [validate] the fact more states should be ready to move forward.
Will NCLGS discuss marketing, promotions, and advertising language?
Those issues will be highlighted at the Legislator/Regulator roundtable and the IMGL panel will certainly touch on the issue of advertising and marketing. We will have gaming regulators from all over the country speaking.
This will surely be top of mind.
What will the conversation about US online casino gambling look like?
We will focus on which states will be the next movers. There has been a stalemate in the states. I think there are many factors. One being the public attention is not there as it has been for sports betting. Also, legislators are largely not educated on iGaming as they are sports betting.
I’ve said many times, sports betting sucks up all the energy in the room, but iGaming is the more important piece of legislation for states to consider if they want to focus on revenue generation. I think once lawmakers get a full grasp of online gaming, how passage will help eliminate the black market, increase player protection, and raise new revenue as opposed to raising current taxes, they will understand that moving iGaming legislation is of utmost importance.
What sorts of sessions have attendees been requesting for this conference?
We constantly get recommendations from legislators, regulators, and industry folks.
Some that I will highlight include:
Responsible Gaming [we are reviewing a resolution put together by NCLGS leadership on RG], Consumer Protections, how colleges are reacting to the sports betting boom, skilled gaming issues, and esports to name a few.
NCLGS speakers seem to hail from legal online casino states or ones that have been the most active in 2023 with bills. Are there any states you’d like to see represented that haven’t yet come to NCLGS?
As NCLGS has grown over the past few years – we’ve had great turnout from legislators and regulators from all over the country.
We already have over 70 legislators and regulators signed up for Denver – they hail from all over the country – SD, PA, CT, CO, WY, MI, IN, IA, NH, WV, Puerto Rico, NE, FL, etc.
Obviously, given the attention that Texas and California have recently received, I think it would be beneficial for both states to be more involved.
You’ve also got a large tribal gaming audience. Is that going to be the next way legal online casino gambling expands?
You’ll have to come to Denver and hear from the Poarch Creek, Matt Morgan of the Chickasaw and Chair of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, and regulators such as Rep. Kloba (WA), Rep. Stearns (WA), Rep. Kannady (OK) – Regulators such as Charles Moore of WY, Lou Trombetta of FL, Tom Sage of NE.
Is there much curiosity about legalizing iLotteries in states without them?
iLottery is in the mix in every state that is trying to legalize iCasino and sports betting.
Fluharty’s Thoughts on West Virginia’s Gambling
In addition to his NCLGS work, Fluharty remains committed to West Virginia’s progress.
What’s West Virginia’s iLottery situation?
We are going live with iLottery soon. It is my understanding that WV Lottery is nearing completion of the regulatory process to get things up and running.
As a lawmaker, what questions do you still have about online gambling?
I think any lawmaker should stay on top of the [constantly] evolving gaming industry and online gaming is no different. We are only a few years in on adoption with West Virginia being at the front of the line. With data now available we can access what has worked and what hasn’t and then proceed with any fixes legislatively as needed.
Will you pursue MSIGA? Will that attract an online poker operator?
We are pursuing it and I expect West Virginia to join the compact within the year. I have spoken directly with WV Lottery on the importance of joining the compact and WV Lottery remains a great partner with the legislature.
What’s the status of esports in West Virginia?
eSports is legal in West Virginia. In fact, in 2022 we went back and clarified previous language strengthening the availability of eSports.
What’s the marketing and advertising situation like in West Virginia?
I think the next wave of consumer protection legislation will include marketing and advertising. For example, we moved legislation (passed the House) related to transparency of books utilizing touts and influencers. Maryland just passed similar legislation into law. We have regulated virtually every facet of sports betting except this area.
The Q&A with Fluharty is original reporting by Bonus.
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