Any significant anniversary is as much a time of reflection as it is one of celebration. Marking the 10th anniversary of the American Gaming Association (AGA), 2005 has been an incredible year, with the industry uniting both to defend common interests and to protect our colleagues who have fallen victim to disaster. As the AGA looks back over the past year, our accomplishments highlight what has truly been a decade-long commitment to excellence in every aspect of serving our industry.
As always, first and foremost is our commitment to representing the gaming entertainment industry and protecting its interests here in Washington. Dominating the headlines and legislative calendar in the last few months of the year were bills to bring needed assistance to businesses working to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The AGA worked closely with members of the congressional gaming caucus and other allies on Capitol Hill to ensure gaming companies in the Gulf Coast region receive the support they need to rebuild their properties and bring renewed economic vitality to the area.
On other legislative and regulatory fronts, after years of attempting to ban betting on college sports in Nevada, the NCAA now regards the gaming industry as a partner in helping to ensure the cessation of illegal wagering on college sporting events, and the AGA reached out to begin building a strong working relationship with that organization.
Additionally, the AGA worked with member companies, the Access Board and the Department of Transportation to evaluate the effects of proposed rules that would update the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles, affecting large passenger watercrafts including riverboat casinos in several states. The AGA submitted comments to the Access Board, which has expressed an interest in working with the AGA to tailor specific guidelines for the riverboat gaming industry.
The AGA continued to monitor and address new developments on the issues surrounding suspicious activity reporting, terrorism insurance and currency transaction reporting, and the AGA’s ongoing efforts to address ill-conceived “deadbeat dads” legislation achieved another victory when a bipartisan congressional committee excluded a provision from the fiscal year 2006 budget intended to garnish casino winnings from deadbeat parents.
Beyond Washington, the AGA’s industrywide initiatives continued to resonate across the country. With the August launch of “We’re Banding Together to Keep it Fun,” one of our largest and most proactive responsible gaming awareness campaigns to date, our commitment to this important issue has never been more evident. The new “Keep it Fun” wristbands unveiled during our eighth annual Responsible Gaming Education Week serve as the centerpiece of the campaign and have enabled all responsible gaming stakeholders to unite in a common effort to support awareness of the issue.
The AGA also remained committed to funding important research on disordered gambling through a number of generous contributions to the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG). Proceeds from the sale of the “Keep it Fun” wristbands and the annual Gaming Hall of Fame Charity Dinner and Induction Ceremony, as well as the first annual gift to the NCRG from Global Gaming Expo (G2E), netted more than $288,000 for the organization.
In 2005, the AGA also demonstrated its ongoing commitment to promoting business innovation and opportunity through the continued growth of G2E. Since its inception in 2001, we have strived to make G2E the most cutting-edge and relevant trade show and conference for our industry, and this year’s show did more than ever to capture the emerging trends affecting the global gaming marketplace. G2E 2005 attracted more than 700 exhibitors and a record 26,600 attendees, including a major international and Native American presence.
The AGA also renewed its commitment to diversity in 2005. A pair of diversity programs conducted in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) provided insight for minority-, women- and disadvantaged-owned businesses seeking to do business with the gaming industry.
In our continued mission to serve as a clearinghouse for information, the AGA has maintained its commitment to providing reliable, informative research on the industry. 2005 marked the launch of our 10th anniversary White Paper Series, which so far has included papers on the impacts of gaming taxation, an analysis of community leaders’ perceptions of the industry, a look back at the AGA’s contributions to responsible gaming, and the impact of the gaming industry on Wall Street.
As president and CEO of the AGA, I believe the strong commitment we demonstrate to our companies and our colleagues is a reflection of the industry we serve. When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita tore through the Gulf Coast this fall, tens of thousands of industry employees were affected by the disasters. In an effort to unite those in our industry who did not already have a way to donate to the victims, the AGA created the Gaming Industry Katrina Relief Fund, which has raised more than $600,000 for gaming employees in Mississippi and Louisiana. Thanks to these and the efforts of nearly every individual gaming company in the country, the gaming industry along the Gulf Coast has a solid foundation on which to begin again.
Helping our industry build on this foundation will be a key priority for the AGA in the year ahead. Our companies are committed to seeing the Gulf Coast economy fully recover, and we share that commitment.
2006 also holds exciting changes for G2E, with the shift to November dates for our flagship event and the debut of new events that will expand G2E’s educational offerings. The new year also will see the AGA launch a new diversity e-newsletter, as well as release the Gaming Industry Vendor Diversity Snapshot, a study being conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers on corporate diversity in the purchasing and contracting arena of the industry. The first study of its kind, the report will serve as a benchmark for measuring future “diversity spend” activities. The AGA also will release the second half of the 10th Anniversary White Paper Series and pursue a new focus on communicating the benefits and contributions of our industry at the local, state and national levels.
Looking ahead, I am confident AGA’s commitment to excellence will continue. I look forward to taking the AGA into its next decade, building on the success of the past to create a secure and successful future for the commercial gaming industry.