As we approach the November midterm elections, we all must be reminded of the blood, sweat and tears shed to earn Americans the right to vote and to preserve it for future generations. Unfortunately, voting is a privilege too often taken for granted in our country. Only 37 percent of registered voters cast a ballot during the previous midterm elections in 2006. The remaining 63 percent elected to stay home rather than elect our future leaders.
Washington may be thousands of miles away from your hometown; the issues debated among our national policymakers may seem too immense or abstract to truly influence your day-to-day life. But make no mistake; the decisions made in the halls of the U.S. Capitol building have a very real impact on how you – and your friends, neighbors and colleagues – live and work. The issues we face today are serious, and I appeal to you to take your vote just as seriously.
I have little doubt that the outcome of the upcoming elections will impact the commercial casino industry – quite likely in ways we cannot yet predict. Just like any other business, the gaming business is deeply affected by national policies regarding our country’s workforce, the environment and, of course, our economy.
Without question, no issue weighs more heavily on the minds of voters than the state of the national economy. As you know, our industry has been hit especially hard during the recession; consumers have tightened their belts and lenders have tightened their purse strings. Unfortunately, the sluggish pace of the economic recovery indicates that the months – and perhaps years – ahead will remain challenging for our industry.
As Congress continues to combat the crisis, new approaches on tax issues could yield potential positives and negatives for gaming. On the one hand, tax incentives to help businesses weather the storm could bolster gaming companies. On the other, legislators may see our industry as an underutilized resource for financing government programs during the persistent downturn.
As our legislators look further to find ways to dig out of the economic recession, including a second jobs bill, the AGA will work to ensure that our industry receives the consideration it deserves from our legislators. We will remind them of the many benefits casinos bring to communities and discourage them from implementing policies that stifle growth and prosperity.
Addressing our nation’s broken immigration system also will be top-of-mind when voters head to the polls next month. Approximately 12 million immigrants are living and working in the United States illegally – a staggering figure that climbs every year.
Within the commercial casino industry, as well as in many related business sectors, immigrants provide vital and needed services. Many are employed as housekeepers and food servers, specialty chefs cooking internationally-inspired foods, and entertainers trained in techniques taught overseas. The vast majority of immigrants, like all the generations of immigrants who have built this country, are hard workers trying to create better lives for themselves and their children.
Both political parties must work together to pass comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path for undocumented workers to become legal and that secures our borders. We need legislators who will provide us with solutions that bridge the divide on this issue and create a clear set of rules and requirements for immigrants seeking the American Dream.
Environmental issues also concern a large number of voters, including those of us who work in the commercial casino industry. Our industry continues to be a leader in the broader business community in environmental stewardship. Commercial casinos, resorts and manufacturers across the country have adopted environmentally sustainable programs to reduce their carbon footprints. Some casino operators are working toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications, which verify that a building was designed using strategies intended to save energy, improve water efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and improve indoor environmental quality. These types of upgrades coupled with others, such as recycling and energy-efficient technology updates, not only help the environment, but can cut energy costs in the long term.
It’s important that, as our current and future legislators work to implement policies in support of energy efficiency and sustainability, they recognize the commitment our industry has made to preserve our environment. We look forward to working with them to find new and better ways to implement the use of environmentally friendly but economically feasible business practices and alternative fuels.
The sweeping health care reform recently signed into law will have a profound impact on business of all stripes as it begins to take effect. The law seeks to extend health care coverage to more Americans by offering subsidies to low-income citizens for the purchase of health insurance, incentives for businesses to provide health care benefits to workers, health insurance exchanges and other tactics.
The results of the midterm elections may significantly alter health care reform if newly elected policymakers undertake efforts to reverse or revise components of the law in the coming years. The AGA continues to monitor developments on this front, and I encourage all Americans – for whom this bill will bring tremendous change – to stay informed as well.
I have mentioned only a few of the issues now up for debate among political candidates; other hot-button issues, including labor reform and online gambling, are sure to have a tremendous affect on the gaming industry and those who support it. The AGA will remain our industry’s eyes and ears in Washington, and we will continue to amplify our voice on Capitol Hill.
But each of you has a responsibility, too. Your voice also is vitally important; you must never doubt the power of a single vote. Former President Lyndon Johnson once said that voting is among the most powerful instruments ever devised by man. This November, I urge you not to squander it.