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The Unprecedented Year

As we wrap up 2020 here at The Innovation Group, I am taking a moment to reflect on the work we achieved under unprecedented circumstances. Like everyone, our team was forced to quickly adapt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our first priority was to do what we always have done: analyze the information and prepare the industry. Under the veil of constantly changing information about what exactly the novel coronavirus was and how long it might lastour first report in early March provided historical context around the impacts of other major events on the gaming and hospitality space, and consideration of how the coronavirus might manifest in the current gaming environment. Later that month, we updated our analysis with a closer look at emerging issues and trends, from the complexities of reopening Macau to the quickly evolving landscape for online gaming.
As it became clear that the industry's shutdown would vary greatly across jurisdictions, our focus shifted to developing a forecast model for a wide range of potential recovery patterns adaptable on a local market basis and tracking customer sentiment to further inform forecasting and future marketing efforts in the new gaming environment. That research culminated in our report: Coronavirus Recovery Consumer Research -- Casino Gaming, published in early June as casinos across the U.S. slowly began to reopen. Two months later, in August, we used that data to benchmark player perceptions since reopening.
At the same time, TIG also stimulated tremendously needed information sharing between tribes, operators, investors, and regulators directly as well as through a webinar series - Gaming in Crisis: The Path Back -- in partnership with Regulatory Management Counselors and Global Gaming Business (GGB) magazine. That six-part series looked at everything from the CARES Act to iGaming and brick-and-mortar design changes.
All the while, TIG partners and analysts continued their core work, tracking trends and impacts within the bigger picture of the industry's slow-moving recovery, including:
  • The continued diversification of tribal gaming, which we wrote about early in the year and revisited in our virtual event, The Exchange, earlier this month.
  • A new era for online gaming, as sports betting came of age in the time of COVID-19. In this report from October, we saw that up to two-thirds of the current online player base had never played online before the pandemic.
  • Evaluating the overall economic impact of the conventions and meetings industry in a pre- and post-COVID world, including specific trickle-down effects on the gaming industry. We assessed the level of recovery in terms of jobs and GDP that could be affected by a relief bill being advanced by the industry.
We appeared in new virtual events across the industry, most recently supporting and sharing expertise at the successful Betting on Sports America Digital earlier this month. We also continued our efforts around our Emerging Leaders of Gaming program, which announced its annual 40 Under 40 list in partnership with GGB in October. Among other expert commentary contributed to gaming-related publications throughout the year - stateside and across Asia - we also contributed to GGB's annual trends piece, taking a look at what 2021 might bring for gaming with an examination of the resilience of regional facilities and the coming boom in online gaming.
In a year like this, I'm reminded of what makes me passionate about gaming. It's volatile, but highly adaptable and innovative. It's community driven and takes care of its own. I'm proud of the industry's efforts this year and our own firm's in particular - both our work and our resilience - and look forward to a more future-focused 2021 for all of us.
Michael Soll is president of The Innovation Group, one of the world's most respected and sought-after research and advisory firm, specializing in the gaming, entertainment, hospitality and leisure industries. To date, its research and analyses have driven over $100 billion in investment decisions across more than 80 countries and six continents. The Innovation Group's accuracy and reliability is unparalleled, with forecasts historically tracking within 5% of actual revenues across the most complex of gaming jurisdictions throughout the globe.  


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