2008 is shaping up to be an exciting year, both here at the American Gaming Association (AGA) and on the broader political landscape.
Diversity has been a key initiative at the AGA for many years, and the AGA’s Diversity Task Force has major activities in store for 2008. We plan to update the most recent snapshot of employment diversity throughout the industry, as well as put the final touches on a first-ever snapshot of industrywide diversity spend. We also plan to update the AGA’s online Diversity Resource Guide to offer an even more powerful tool for minority-, women- and disadvantaged-owned businesses looking to access business opportunities in the gaming industry.
On the heels of an unprecedented fundraising campaign that netted $7.5 million in commitments to the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) over the next five years, the NCRG has big plans for this year as well. As the AGA’s affiliated charity, the NCRG is working to develop an ongoing casino employee responsible gaming education program that will augment the traditional activities planned once a year for Responsible Gaming Education Week. The NCRG also is partnering with researchers affiliated with Harvard Medical School to help colleges and universities address problem gambling on their campuses, and to develop a program to help parents talk to their children about gambling. The NCRG and the AGA also are teaming up to develop a new program to provide Native American casinos with the resources they need to develop comprehensive responsible gaming programs at their properties.
Also in 2008, the AGA also will continue to serve as the primary resource for the most up-to-date and reliable information about the commercial casino sector. This May, the AGA will release the 10th addition of our annual State of the States report, which has grown into one of the most respected and cited industry publications in the country. We will continue to explore complex industrywide issues through our 10th anniversary research series and the new Real Deal Web site, and we will continue to expand the activities under its media outreach program in an effort to educate reporters in emerging markets about the facts about our industry
We also will continue to build on our initiatives to promote business opportunities and innovation through our growing Global Gaming Expo (G2E) family of events. More than 30,000 gaming professionals from around the world attended our flagship G2E event last November in Las Vegas. The 2007 show featured many new features that will carry over to 2008, including expanded security and surveillance and technology pavilions, as well as a new program to promote leadership skills among the next generation of gaming executives through the G2E Leadership Academy.
2008 also will mark the second year of G2E Asia, taking place this year at the newly opened Cotai Strip Convention and Exhibition Center at the Venetian Macao. Our 2007 event, held at the Macau Tower, attracted 3,000 gaming professionals from more than 50 countries and featured nearly 28,000 square feet of sold-out exhibit space. With the additional space provided by the new facilities at the Venetian, we will have the ability to develop G2E Asia into just as large and diverse an event as our flagship show. We plan to debut a significantly expanded education program at G2E Asia 2008, and we already have sold more than 77,000 square feet of exhibit space.
Of course, the AGA’s primary mission continues to be to protect the interests of the commercial gaming industry and its employees in Washington, and we will continue to promote industry positions on such legislative topics as terrorism risk insurance, travel and tourism issues related to the Visa Waiver Program, tax reform, immigration reform and various pieces of employment legislation.
Additionally, we will continue to provide support for the Internet Gambling Study Act calling for an independent, congressionally funded study of Internet gambling so we may determine the proper way to address this issue in the U.S.
Obviously, the upcoming elections most likely will stymie action on some of the more controversial issues on the Hill, and from my perch in Washington, this year’s election is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in history. It will be exciting to watch how it all plays out from our front row seat here in Washington.