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 as an industry. Just as important, we also want to take this time to look forward to what we can expect to see in Washington, D.C., this year.
While my experience here in the nation’s capital has taught me to be wary of predicting the political future, it’s safe to say that there are certain events we can expect to happen in 2005. The most significant for Nevada will be the ascension of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid to Senate minority leader. With one senator in the majority party and the other the most powerful Democrat, Nevada’s interests – including the gaming industry – will be well represented.
There also will be changes in the leadership and makeup of committees that handle gambling-related legislation — changes that could impact policy decisions affecting the gaming industry in Nevada. 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 Senate Commerce Committee, a post that allowed him to press for consideration of that measure. We hope that this will dampen enthusiasm for a bill that didn’t receive a hearing in the last Congress.
While the sports betting issue has been quiet, legislation to ban Internet gambling is expected to return again in the 109th Congress. As he has for nearly a decade, U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) worked hard during the final weeks of the last session to revive his bill that would prohibit Internet gambling, but his efforts were unsuccessful. Sen. Kyl is likely to introduce similar legislation again this year in the U.S. Senate. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Reps. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) and James Leach (R-Iowa) are expected to re-introduce a bill similar to the one passed by the House in the 108th Congress that would prohibit the use of credit cards, debit cards and other money transfer mechanisms in Internet gambling.
Additionally, some of our industry’s most critical issues will be fought outside the Beltway. Restaurants, bars, hotels and other businesses involved in the hospitality industry, including casinos, are facing increasing pressure from states and localities seeking to ban smoking in all public buildings. As an industry, we are not pro-smoking or anti-smoking, but our job is to keep all our customers happy. Because many of our customers do choose to smoke, we want to accommodate their needs while maintaining a safe and comfortable environment for our employees and patrons who choose not to smoke. We believe we have found a solution in state-of-the-art ventilation systems, which can already be found in many Strip casinos and are gradually being installed in casinos across the country as they upgrade their facilities. While Nevada groups are circulating a pair of anti-smoking petitions, 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 concerns.
We recognize that our image as an industry can impact our success on Capitol Hill and in state capitols as well as on Wall Street and Main Street. So the AGA has dedicated a significant amount of time and effort to industrywide issues of public concern. In the area of responsible gaming, the AGA will build on existing efforts to provide AGA members in Nevada and other gaming states with resources for adhering to the provisions of the AGA Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming, which represents a commitment to integrate responsible gaming into all our daily operations. Additionally, we will be developing new ways to increase public awareness of responsible gaming throughout our industry and within gaming communities.
Before the AGA was formed 10 years ago, our business did not have a united voice on issues such as responsible gaming or federal issues debated on Capitol Hill. Today, thanks to industry leadership and the support of our Nevada congressional delegation, we have built a strong foundation to serve the interests of our member companies today and into the future.