President and CEO, American Gaming Association
Last week, the American Gaming Association (AGA) released its full-year 2021 commercial gaming revenue report, and the numbers are nothing short of remarkable. We went from our darkest days with the full shutdown of gaming in 2020 to one of the economy’s most remarkable examples of recovery.
Commercial gaming revenue totaled $53 billion in 2021, surpassing the $50 billion threshold for the first time ever and shattering 2019’s previous record of $43.65 billion. Every commercial gaming vertical and 23 of 34 commercial gaming states set revenue records.
Many tribal leaders have also shared anecdotally that 2021 was tribal gaming’s best year ever and we look forward to reporting on that later this year.
Our turnaround can be credited to our industry’s commitment to health and safety throughout the pandemic and the demand for the one-of-a-kind entertainment only we can provide.
This can be seen in the much-anticipated breakout of omnichannel gaming in 2021, as the pandemic caused shifts in player behavior. From in-person casino gaming to mobile sports betting and iGaming, layered with digital payments, today’s customer can engage how, where, and when they want.
Americans are also welcoming gaming’s expansion across the U.S. Legal sports betting markets launched in seven states in 2021 and additional markets are expected to launch in 2022. Casinos will also open for the first time in Virginia in the coming year, along with several new racinos in Nebraska’s budding gaming market.
As we look to 2022, the AGA is focused on accelerating gaming’s full recovery and securing the industry’s future beyond the pandemic. Our priorities include:
Driving responsibility in sports betting. Continuing to build a safe, sustainable sports betting market is paramount. We’ve taken a proactive approach to set high standards for responsible marketing; convene leagues, media, sportsbooks and others to educate customers on responsible sports wagering; and collaborate with advocates and regulators on streamlining access to problem gambling resources. The AGA will continue to drive this important work forward and ensure our commitment grows as gaming expands.
Shutting down illegal gambling. One of the biggest threats to our industry today is unregulated, illegal gambling machines. In stark contrast to our highly regulated industry, these so-called grey market machines do not meet federal laws regarding anti-money laundering, are not tested or monitored to ensure fairness for consumers, and prey on the most vulnerable, including minors. In 2022, we’ll push for law enforcement to more aggressively go after bad actors and policymakers to strengthen laws and close loopholes that erode regulations and permit unnecessary consumer risk.
Advancing gaming’s leadership on ESG issues. Investors, lawmakers, activists, customers, employees want more from the business community today, especially on matters of environmental, social, governance (ESG). At the direction of our members, the AGA conducted an industry-wide audit of member initiatives on important ESG issues, which will be released this spring. This report is the beginning of an ambitious and important undertaking that will drive hard discussions with industry leaders and establish a baseline from which we can continue to improve gaming’s positive impact.
Pushing key priorities and building champions in Washington, D.C. We’re in an election year and that typically means Congress convenes less and finds it difficult to advance major legislation. This will likely hold true in 2022, given the closely divided Congress. Even still, the AGA remains vigilant. We will block any recovery-slowing policies while championing efforts to secure a favorable policy environment.
Topping 2021’s historic growth won’t be easy. But as a united industry, we can build on our momentum, seize the opportunities in front of us, and take on any new challenges that might emerge.