Florida has three of the top gaming design universities. But the state's prohibition on the manufacture of gaming devices and equipment costs us jobs.
A key component of Gov. Rick Scott's job creation initiative for Florida is promoting manufacturing. Yet, one promising element of that strategy is off the radar for state policymakers: advanced manufacturing for electronic gambling devices.
This is a mistake. Florida has a competitive advantage in the core resources needed to make this industry globally competitive without the political fallout associated with expanding casinos and gambling venues within the state.
Florida's game development industry is capable of creating a new manufacturing sector that leverages the state's existing assets. Our top ranked gaming industry is part of the $99.6 billion global gaming market that attracts leading designers, developers and entrepreneurs who generated more than $171 million for our local economies.
In addition, three of the state's schools are listed in Princeton Review's top 25 graduate schools for game design study, with University of Central Florida holding the distinction as first in the nation. Full Sail University in Orlando ranked 17th and the University of Miami, 23rd.
Yet Florida's gambling and slot machine laws prohibit Florida businesses from utilizing our advanced manufacturing and technology sectors to build fully compliant electronic gambling devices for the lucrative international casino market.
Florida's licensed casino operators purchase components for assembly from distributors with corporate headquarters and/or full production facilities based in other states. While the demand for traditional gambling devices, such as slot machines, is declining, the timing has never been better for our state to amend regulations and permit Florida-based companies to build, test and distribute innovative, market-ready devices to regulated casino jurisdictions worldwide.
Nevada and New Jersey have new statutes in place and are retooling to profit from the wave of e-sports that emerged from competitive electronic gaming. The sport's phenomenon has elevated exceptional players to the status of professional athletes, with fan bases and overall earning potentials in the millions. As a result, Las Vegas is strategically competing for the growing demographic of millennial tourists by incorporating e-sports, mobile apps, popular “skilled-based” e-games and new skill-based “slot machines” within the city's vibrant casinos and night clubs.
This new generation of skill-based video slot machines and electronic gambling devices incorporates familiar interactive gaming technology, including handheld cursor controls, or joysticks, that reward players with payback percentages based on their mastery of the game. Innovative resorts are scheduled to incorporate PCs and gaming consoles that include Xbox, Wii and PlayStation platforms into their casino programs by the end of 2016.
This extraordinary pivot by casinos is occurring as the nation's recovering gambling industry surpasses $70 billion in annual revenue. With the support of the American Gaming Industry and consumer demand for creative strategic play, leading casinos are positioned to capture new lucrative markets.
Florida can position itself as a leader in manufacturing by leveraging its current assets, not pump priming with new investments. The state can give game developers and technological incubators financial and creative incentives to partner with Florida's manufacturing infrastructure to develop new scalable and patentable products that are exportable and generate ongoing state revenue.
These policy changes will encourage commercial diversification, job growth and content and talent retention through new or expanding businesses that benefit from Florida's economic incentive programs, tax climate, research-to-commercialization technology programs and associated infrastructure.
Florida is missing an important opportunity to tap into an emerging advanced manufacturing niche market. Our game developers and manufacturers are legally prohibited from manufacturing fully compliant gambling devices or prototypes in Florida, leaving our cards on the table as other states step up as clearinghouses to compete and win.
Amending state statutes will give licensed Florida-based businesses the ability to develop new product lines, markets and trade opportunities. Florida, economic opportunity is knocking!
Jillaine Owens is the founder and president of Florida Gaming Development.