The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) has been a critical assembly for nearly three decades, uniting state lawmakers with regulators and industry leaders to discuss the evolving gaming environment and technology advancements. This week, the NCLGS returns to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for its biannual conference, a significant location as it’s the birthplace of the NCLGS, founded in 1995 by former Florida state legislator Steve Geller.
Initially focused on traditional gaming like casinos and horse racing, the conference has expanded to cover newer aspects like sports betting, online casinos, responsible gambling, and esports. The event will see over 40 legislators from various states participate, facilitating a unique convergence of key decision-makers in the gaming sector.
Genesis of a Gaming Legislative Gathering
The concept of NCLGS was inspired by insurance legislation, recalls founder Geller. While leading the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, he saw the need for a similar body in gambling. His initiative attracted interest from 15 states, leading to the first conference in Denver in 1996. NCLGS was formed not to promote gambling but to ensure responsible regulation as the industry expanded nationwide.
Geller emphasizes NCLGS’s neutral stance on gambling, welcoming diverse perspectives, from industry advocates to opponents. Geller, a 20-year veteran of the Florida legislature and now a Broward County commissioner, remains actively involved as the NCLGS general counsel.
Gaming Industry’s Role in NCLGS
The gaming industry has been integral to NCLGS since its inception, offering expertise to legislators and regulators. Spectrum Gaming’s management of the conference since 2015 significantly raised its profile, drawing about 300 attendees per event and facilitating crucial dialogues between different gaming stakeholders.
Michael Pollock of Spectrum highlighted NCLGS’s role in promoting best practices and effective regulation through open dialogue among legislators, regulators, operators, and other industry participants.
NCLGS’s Non-Partisan Nature
NCLGS stands out for its non-partisan approach, where political affiliations take a backseat to the pursuit of sound public policy. This ethos was central to Geller’s vision and remains a defining feature, ensuring that discussions focus on the merits of policy rather than party politics.
Sports Betting’s Influence on NCLGS
The 2018 overturning of PASPA significantly impacted NCLGS, as states began contemplating sports betting legislation. The NCLGS has been pivotal in these discussions, providing a platform for legislators like Shawn Fluharty, who played a key role in West Virginia’s early adoption of sports betting legislation.
Competitive Spirit Among Legislators
NCLGS also fosters a competitive yet collaborative environment among legislators. For instance, Jon Ford and Brandt Iden engaged in a friendly contest to pass sports betting bills in their respective states, highlighting the shared learning and strategy exchange.
Focus on iGaming Legislation
The current focus of NCLGS is on iGaming legislation, with plans to unveil a model legislative blueprint at the next conference. This initiative, led by Fluharty, aims to provide legislators with comprehensive recommendations and best practices for navigating the iGaming landscape, acknowledging the education gap in this area.
In summary, the NCLGS has become a crucial forum for fostering understanding, collaboration, and effective regulation in the gaming industry, adapting to the sector’s evolving needs and shaping the future of gaming legislation.