Casino Mogul Warns Of Online Casino Peril

Cordish CEO wary of competing against the likes of Facebook and Google

David Cordish, the legendary 81-year-old CEO of the century-old Maryland-based family gaming business The Cordish Companies, suggested at the East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City Tuesday that he knew he was about to break with the usual industry sentiment.

But Cordish went ahead with his continuing skepticism about the potential for online casino gambling, or iGaming, with a twist. While Cordish showered praise on the late Sheldon Adelson, formerly the leader of the movement against legalization of that betting option, he approached the issue from a different angle.

“There is a very coherent case to be made that iGaming will be good for the industry,” said Cordish, whose Live!-branded casinos operate in or near Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. “And some very smart people make that case.”

But Cordish noted that only a small group of companies — his included — can afford to spend up to $1 billion or more to construct a traditional casino.

“I kind of like the odds of competing in a small market,” Cordish added. “Now, when you start talking about iGaming … what are the barriers? The people who can get into iGaming, once it is established throughout the United States, have names like Amazon, and Facebook, and Google.

“I don’t want to compete against them in the ether,” Cordish said, referring to the internet. “I don’t mind competing against them on the ground. But they have [customer] databases that begin in the tens and hundreds of millions of previously existing people. The first thing that comes to mind for me is, ‘Don’t wish for something too hard — you just might get it.’ We don’t want to open this up to that kind of universe.”

Another (younger) view on iGaming

Before Cordish’s speech, 37-year-old West Virginia Delegate Shawn Fluharty had a different view. While noting that “sports betting sucks up all the oxygen” in legislative gaming discussions, he said lawmakers should “pass sports betting for show, pass iGaming for dough.”

Meanwhile, Bally’s Chief Marketing Officer Phil Juliano said that as he looks at the developing East Coast casino market, the “monster” is the likelihood of three casino licenses being issued for New York City-area sites by early 2023.

“How the Meadowlands will react to that is anybody’s guess,” Juliano said, referring to previous failed efforts for approval of a New Jersey casino just outside of Manhattan. “For Atlantic City, I don’t know that that would help. Atlantic City has to continue to improve so that it is a destination beyond just a gaming experience.”

Fellow panelist Kevin O’Toole, Pennsylvania‘s chief regulator, explained that the state has 59 truck stops that have a handful of “video gaming terminals” — cousins of slot machines — with each location meeting requirements such as a minimum of 20 tractor-trailer parking spots and sales of 50,000 gallons of gas per month on a minimum of three acres of land.

O’Toole added that several of the five mini-casinos approved by the state for development — two of which are already open — replace major department stores as anchor tenants of shopping malls.

Lack of diversity in gaming is noted

Maryland Delegate Darryl Barnes, chairman of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, said that his state’s gambling expansion legislation features “the most robust” language of any state in terms of insisting on diversity in hiring. But there is a long way to go, he said, pointing to his time at a Monday night reception at Harrah’s.

“It was a room full of old white men,” Barnes said, adding that he noticed only one exception besides himself. “The dynamics must change.”


David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, quipped, “I’m done with predicting where sports wagering is going in the state,” after September’s U.S.-record $1.01 billion handle in the state. “I certainly don’t know, but it has exceeded my wildest expectations.”

Juliano said that he doesn’t agree with claims of a grim future for casinos. He said that while young adults do spend a massive of time looking at their smartphones, “young people will come to casinos when they are older — and they will come in droves.”

Murphy’s law: Zing the predecessor

In a virtual presentation, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy couldn’t resist a dig at Gov. Chris Christie, who did not give a keynote speech at this annual event during his two terms. Murphy, the state’s fifth governor to speak in the conference’s 24-year history, attended the event in 2018 and 2019. He also touted a bill he signed into law last year that allows those convicted of non-violent drug offenses the opportunity to be licensed to work in the city’s casinos.

“This state believes in second chances,” said Murphy, who was not personally on hand this year to encounter a casino smoking ban rally outside the casino.

Other panel topics included the future of betting on eSports and more on how Atlantic City figures to be impacted by those Big Apple casinos.

Image: Shutterstock


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