Esports has become a $1bn industry worldwide, but cannabis has become a $1bn industry in Nevada alone, and gambling analysts are predicting casinos will be serving marijuana to their customers within the next decade.
Gone are the days when Nevada Gaming Commission chairman Tony Alamo said in 2017 that, “on one hand, you have the gaming industry and on the other, you have the marijuana industry and the two shall not meet”.
Chris Anderson, a former executive director of a political action committee for the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, on Tuesday (May 23) said he would not be surprised if President Joe Biden removes cannabis from the list of the Drug Enforcement Administration during next year’s presidential campaign.
“That would then bring the whole curtain down, and at that point, there would be no federal prohibition of cannabis,” Anderson, who is president of Sala Consulting in Las Vegas, said during a panel discussion at the International Conference on Gambling & Risk Taking, sponsored by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Also known as the Eadington Conference because of its founder, the legendary gambling research pioneer William Eadington of the University of Nevada, Reno, the conference will continue through Thursday at the Park MGM mega-resort on the Las Vegas Strip.
“[Cannabis] is going to be fully integrated within the gaming experience,” Anderson said.
All of this could be coming as people are still trying to wrap their heads around the alliance between the U.S.’ major sports leagues and the sports-betting industry during the last five years.
Riana Durrett, a member of the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board, said the consolidation of cannabis and casinos will take longer.
For example, Nevada law still requires cannabis establishments to be located at least 1,500 feet away from casinos but only 1,000 feet away from schools.
“Our gaming establishments are more protected from cannabis than our schools are protected from cannabis,” Durrett said.
A Nevada casino would lose its licence if customers were allowed to buy and consume cannabis on its premises.
High tax rates also add to the difficulty of succeeding as a cannabis dispenser.
Despite these restrictions, Durrett predicted cannabis will be available in Nevada casinos within five to ten years.
“Las Vegas, I think, is uniquely situated … to become the king of cannabis tourism,” she said. “We know regulation like nobody else does.”
About 48 percent of millennials — individuals in the age group between 24 to 39 and a demographic coveted by the casino industry — are cannabis consumers, according to Chris LaPorte, who is the founder of RESET Vegas, a cannabis hospitality company.
But LaPorte agreed with a member of the audience who said the perception of cannabis consumers by the general public is that they are “potheads”.
The cannabis industry needs to produce more data to “show there’s more than just this opium den of a venue that’s going to open up. We can showcase that this is a market worth chasing,” La Porte said.