Technology seen as driver behind gaming recovery

Gaming executives may be unsure of when an industrywide recovery will occur, but several of them believe that when it does, it will be driven in large part by changes in technology, especially mobile devices.

“The gaming (industry) is being revolutionized by hand-held or mobile technology,” said Gene Johnson, an associate with Spectrum Gaming Group.

He said within five years more consumers are expected to be using hand-held devices to access the Internet than desktop computers.

“More and more people are using hand-held devices. It’s now becoming part of our culture,” Johnson said Wednesday as moderator of a panel discussion at the Global Gaming Expo.

Cantor Gaming Chief Executive Officer Lee Amaitis; Matt Ward, executive director product strategy and advanced solutions at WMS Gaming Inc.; and Alex Kelly, vice president of interactive with International Game Technology, joined Johnson on the panel at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Amaitis said the rapid rise of mobile phones to access data means there is a “generation of people on the move” who will want to gamble on their mobile phones.

“Mobile technology is truly changing the way we get information, and communicate,” said Kelly, whose company IGT operates online gaming sites in the United Kingdom. “In the U.K. we are seeing staggering growth … 150 percent month to month growth online.”

At Cantor Race and Sports Book at M Resort, the firm expects a $400 million handle this year out of a $2.5 billion handle for sports wagering statewide. Cantor Gaming uses its own mobile device called an eDeck.

The eDeck, which is about the size of an iPad and operates as a touch screen wireless device, can be used to play Cantor Gaming’s proprietary games, including XtraOdds Black Jack and XtraOdds Baccarat from the sports books and other public areas of the casino. The device also allows customers to wager on sports, including placing in game bets on players or the outcome of certain plays.

“That figure from our sports book can only show you that the customer wants more options,” Amaitis said.

Kelly said despite growing consumer interest in mobile technology, the regulatory environment within the United States will have to change to make mobile gambling legal. A first step was taken on Monday in New Jersey when the state Senate Budget Commission approved legislation that would authorize Internet wagering at casinos.

Legal online gambling was expected to bring an estimated $350 million in annual revenues to the state.

Amaitis noted Nevada passed an online gaming bill in 2001 that “never got off the ground.” Despite the regulatory challenges, he expected mobile wagering to be legal within two years.

“We are working with regulators to show how we can make the (mobile) market safe and secure,” he said. “It’s going to happen because people want to do it.”

Kelly pointed out that consumers are already gambling online. The United Kingdom was the first to legalize online and mobile gaming in 2005.

“Around last year, Italy, France, Spain and Australia changed their laws,” he said. “The U.K. was driving that change. People realized that the culture of their society didn’t drop out because online and mobile gaming was legalized.

Amaitis agreed, but said in the U.S. the stigma surrounding gambling was part of the reason mobile gaming has not been legalized. He said illegal wagering in the United States generates $400 billion annually, which makes it a “fantastic market for legal companies to operate.”

“We need to figure out a way to regulate it and make it safe,” Amaitis said. “We can learn from the U.K. how to regulate and tax mobile gambling.”

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at or 702-477-3893.

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