2005 is more than just a new year at the American Gaming Association (AGA). It also marks the 10-year anniversary of our organization, which allows us to step back and reflect on the progress we’ve made together as an industry. Just as important, we also want to take this time to look forward to what we can expect in the next year.
While my experience here in Washington, D.C., has taught me never to make predictions when it comes to politics, it’s safe to say that there are certain events we can expect to happen in 2005. With no shift in the control of the White House or either house of Congress, we don’t anticipate dramatic changes in the legislative agenda. There will, however, be other differences that could affect our industry, the most significant being the ascension of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada – someone who knows and understands our industry – to Senate minority leader.
There also will be changes in the leadership and makeup of committees that handle gambling-related legislation — changes that could impact policy decisions. For instance, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the leading proponent of a bill to ban college sports wagering in Nevada, will no longer be at the helm of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, a post that allowed him to press for consideration of that measure.
But we also can expect some of our perennial industry issues to return. Internet gambling legislation, which has been at issue on Capitol Hill since the late 1990s, will most likely be considered again in the 109th Congress. Although U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) worked hard during the final weeks of the 108th Congress to revive his bill limiting Internet gambling, his efforts were unsuccessful. Sen. Kyl is expected to introduce similar legislation again this year. Additionally, Reps. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) and James Leach (R-Iowa) are expected to re-introduce a bill in the House of Representatives to prohibit the use of credit cards, debit cards and other money transfer mechanisms in Internet gambling.
On another top-of-mind issue – smoking – we will continue in 2005 to work closely with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to emphasize our support of reasonable, science-based solutions to indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns. After a yearlong campaign gathering the requisite 300 signatures to establish a separate standards committee within ASHRAE to address concerns specific to the hospitality industry, ASHRAE’s full membership is expected to vote this month on whether or not to establish that committee. Pro-actively, the AGA established a board-level subcommittee to deal with IAQ issues, and we are considering crafting best practices for addressing IAQ at new and existing gaming facilities.
In addition to policy issues, the AGA plans to continue its work addressing industrywide issues of public concern. In the area of responsible gaming, we will build on existing efforts to provide AGA members with resources for adhering to the provisions of the AGA Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming. Additionally, we will be developing new ways to increase public awareness of responsible gaming throughout our industry and within gaming communities. On diversity, our indutrywide task force will be working on new studies analyzing diversity in hiring and procurement, and may broaden the reach of Opportunity Expo, a forum for minority- and women-owned and disadvantaged suppliers and vendors to do business with major gaming companies.
During our 10 years of existence, we’ve taken great strides to lay a strong foundation for our industry. I look forward to our work building on those efforts in the next year and beyond.