Wynn CEO Debunks Online vs Traditional Casino Conflict


The ongoing discourse over whether online casinos are detrimental to their brick-and-mortar counterparts has been dismissed by Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings as overly simplistic. In a thoughtful reflection shared on LinkedIn, Billings addressed the apprehensions surrounding the expansion of internet-based gambling and its potential impact on traditional gaming venues.

A point of neutrality has been claimed by Billings due to Wynn’s strategic withdrawal from the iGaming and online sports betting sectors, and the company’s minimal presence in the arena of regional casinos. The Wynn’s foray includes just a solitary establishment recognized as a regional venue—the Encore Boston Harbor, a top revenue generator in its class.

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In his meditation on the subject, Billings acknowledged that the potential effects of online casinos on land-based operations merit serious consideration. Yet, he contends, the narrative is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. “With the advent of online gambling, we introduce an array of fresh and adept competitors into states where the competitive environment has been long established and stable,” argued Billings. The assumption that all regional casinos will uniformly feel the impact of iGaming, whether positive or negative, is unduly naive.

With over eight years at Wynn and a career spanning more than two decades in the gambling industry, Billings recognizes the fixation on the total addressable market (TAM) and tax revenues in the iGaming debate as short-sighted. Despite online casinos being heralded as the next major growth avenue for the gaming industry, it’s crucial to note that digital gambling is only legalized in a select few states—Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

In stark contrast, Billings points out that the United States is home to around 1,000 commercial and tribal casinos. Yet, only 10% to 15% of these have developed an omnichannel strategy that spans both physical and online gambling platforms, as well as sports betting. “The properties poised to truly rival online gaming specialists are those under the large national gaming operators,” Billings mused. “As for the rest, market share will inevitably shift, creating clear winners and losers within the land-based gaming sector.”

Touching on labor concerns, Billings sheds light on another dimension of the iGaming debate. While critics may overlook this aspect, land-based casinos are significant employment generators relative to their online counterparts. Billings furnishes the comparison that while a substantial online gaming company might employ one or two people per million dollars in sales, a physical casino could provide jobs for as many as five individuals against the same revenue benchmark.

Billings soberly forecasts that gaming-related unions—particularly in states with a strong Democratic leaning—will proactively defend their interests against the rising tide of online casinos. After all, the reactions of these unions are driven by the imperative to safeguard jobs, rather than analytical reports on market cannibalization. And in many cases, the voices of unions are hearkened to by legislators who value their vote-rich memberships.

With several states potentially weighing the future of iGaming legislation, including heavily Democratic-leaning Illinois and New York, the dialogue on the balance between online and land-based gaming seems poised to continue.

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