Thank you for that very kind introduction.
Rick, you and your colleagues have made my brief time here a great pleasure. I thank you first for the complimentary words and your extraordinary hospitality. But most of all I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in this meeting.
As president of an association that calls itself the American Gaming Association, I consider it my responsibility to work with, not only the actual members of the AGA, but every one involved in the gaming-entertainment industry.
And the National Indian Gaming Association is one of the most significant players in this great industry today.
Growing up in Nevada, I always considered gaming to be just another, albeit extremely important, business which provided jobs and economic stability to my community.
Of course, once I began to venture outside of Nevada I learned that wasn’t necessarily the world view of gaming. A lesson that was only reinforced when I moved to Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s to become chairman of the National Republican Party.
As I look out over this gathering, it is difficult to believe that little more than a decade ago gaming outside of Nevada, Atlantic City and Puerto Rico was an idea too strange to be considered. As for casinos on tribal land—well, it wasn’t something that ever occurred to me, although, I am sure their were visionaries among the tribal leadership that even then saw the opportunity for Indian involvement in gaming.
There is no question the gaming-entertainment industry has come a very long way, but it is a journey that has really just begun.
What first began in the deserts of Nevada was provided life-giving stimulus and broad-based legitimacy by the spread of state lotteries and by riverboat and Indian gaming initiatives. Gaming-entertainment has now become the fastest growing industry in the nation, providing jobs and opportunity for hundreds of thousands of men and women; tax revenues and economic opportunity to communities all across the country; and offering the best entertainment value in the world.
According to International Gaming & Wagering Business Magazine, $482 billion was legally wagered in 1994 in the United States, with total gaming-entertainment revenues reaching nearly $40 billion, of which Indian gaming’s revenue share was $3.4 billion.
Experts estimate that, in addition to the 300,000 people directly employed by casinos, there are at least 150,000 people directly employed in other gaming—entertainment areas.
Using conservative estimates, there also are 500,000 jobs created indirectly by our industry.
That means more than 1 million American jobs in 48 states are either directly or indirectly a product of the gaming-entertainment industry.
In preparing for this presentation, I read the remarks made by Mike Rose of Promus to your organization a year ago. I was moved by his opening words relating a story about the kachinas of the Zuni community of New Mexico.
Mike described a particular kachina depicting two beings attached back to back… so that their faces are always turned in completely opposite directions. Two beings sharing the same physical space .. but having completely opposite perspectives of the world around them.
Mike used that story to express his commitment to bringing Indian gaming and traditional casino companies closer together.
I am here to take yet another step in that direction. Working separately we have built an incredible industry. By working together, we can seize the opportunities that lie ahead, overcome the problems that we all face and create an even more prosperous future.
But I must be candid in admitting that we are not yet able to all face in the same direction on every issue confronting the industry. As many of you know, the organization I represent has myriad views on Indian gaming; however, there are certain critical issues that every one in the industry should be marching shoulder to shoulder to face. In other words, on these overarching issues we can and should be allies, putting aside different views on business philosophy, marketing objectives and competition.
The industry must understand that there are certain types of people who cannot be swayed by the facts. There are those I call “moralist” who see gaming as an evil, immoral activity. They have a right to their viewpoint and there is no message, no mode of communication, that will change their minds.
There are also those who oppose gaming for what they claim are legitimate social and economic reasons. These people build their case against the industry upon facts that are misleading at best and manufactured at worst. These I call the “case—closed” people. Their motto is: “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” These are also people that education will not affect.
It would be easy to ignore the “moralists” and the “closed-minds”, after all, we all know that a considerable majority of the people support legalized gaming and we also know that more than 125 million visits were made to casinos in 1994, but we cannot afford to ignore them.
We must be prepared to respond when they distribute their misinformation. And they are using a good deal of misinformation on every aspect of our industry. From economic statistics, to problem gambling data to crime statistics.
Allow me to pause here to say that one of the most dishonest red herrings our opponents use is “organized crime.” As I recently wrote to Illinois Senator Paul Simon who used the canard in a speech on the Senate floor: It is time the organized crime issue is put to rest. Today, non-Indian gaming entertainment is owned by the same people who own other major industries—stockholders. More than 75 publicly traded companies, all under scrutiny of the SEC, own gaming interests. The gaming-entertainment industry is as legitimate as any other industry in this country, and people who claim organized crime involvement should put up the evidence or stop slandering the hundreds of thousands of people who make up the industry.
Sen. Simon or other critics should take the time to talk with the FBI on this subject. Or, regarding Indian gaming, they could just check the testimony given during the June 22nd House/Senate Joint Hearing on Indian gaming where Kevin DiGregory, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice, stated that the FBI has found that “… no substantial organized crime problem has occurred in Indian gaming.”
Sen. Simon also passed along, in that same floor speech, another myth, unwittingly using what appears to be a totally fictitious figure by an alleged insurance industry study that “suggests that 40 percent of white collar crime can be traced to gambling.”
A reporter from International Gaming and Wagering Business Magazine attempted to track the origin of that statement. The reporter was unable to find anyone who had ever heard of the organization that is the source of the statistic. Furthermore, criminal justice experts find the number highly questionable and one expert, Prof. Gilbert Geis, professor emeritus in criminal justice at the University of California, Irvine and the co-author of White Collar Crime, called the statistic, “utter nonsense.”
I know Sen. Simon and I am certain he took that figure, in good faith, from Mr. Robert Goodman’s U.S. Gambling Study. He is not the first to be mislead, as much of Mr. Goodman’s “research” is now being used by gaming opponents as gospel. Mr. Goodman has become the guru of gaming opponents despite the fact that his research methods are so questionable as to make his reports valuable only as propaganda. The job we all have is to see that such propaganda is not allowed to stand uncontested.
We do have a powerful positive message, but we also share problems that we must address. There are a number of issues facing our industry that have the potential to seriously damage our efforts to grow and become a part of the American mainstream. These are serious industry-affecting issues such as (1) gaming addiction, (2) underage gaming and (3) strong, consistent regulation and enforcement.
I see from your agenda that you have a workshop later today on “how to recognize problem gamblers.” You are to be applauded for taking an aggressive, public position on this issue.
Problem gaming is a perfect example of the adage truth is what people perceive it to be. The fact is, studies fail to show the institution of legal gaming increases the number of problem gamblers.
But, one problem gambler is one too many and, as good public citizens, it is our responsibility to address the problem. Public education programs, corporate training programs and industrywide awareness programs must be developed and aggressively implemented.
The same is true of underage gambling. Again, available data fails to show legal gaming increases the amount of underage gambling; yet that perception still persists. Our opponents can point to isolated incidents as proof that we are lax in enforcing the laws. We can combat this with the facts, but we must, just as is the case with the problem gambler issue, take the responsible public position of actively instituting programs to combat underage gaming.
A colleague of mine, in a recent speech, put it very well when discussing these issues. He said that the industry “stands at a crossroads—we can take the initiative to put in place programs that will help encourage responsible gaming—or we can have onerous programs placed upon us by politicians and activists who do not understand our business or who simplify complex issues that surround the problems.”
I would say that characterization also holds true for the third potential problem issue. We as an industry must support strong, consistent regulation and enforcement or we will see politicians forcing onerous regulations upon us.
I recognize that there are strong feelings and Constitutional issues surrounding any discussion of regulating and enforcing regulations on tribal land. It is not my place, nor is it my intention, to enter that debate, but it is my place to encourage you to join in the call for strong regulation and enforcement on tribal lands.
This is an issue over which, as Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
The industry’s years in Nevada and Atlantic City have taught us that strict regulation is essential to maintaining the public’s confidence in gaming and the public’s confidence is essential to the success of the industry. Strong regulation and demonstrable enforcement will also keep unwanted regulators off our backs.
Let me emphasize, it is not enough to have tough regulations. Any laxity by any part of the industry in any location will give our opponents ammunition to use against us all. For example, some riverboat states have tough rules on the books, but no infrastructure to enforce them.
Which brings us to an issue that I know you are all following closely. Sen. John McCain’s legislation (S. 487) to reform the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.
As I have told Rick and Sen. McCain, the American Gaming Association is presently taking no position on this legislation. There is no consensus among our membership on the issues it addresses.
However, I have recently written to Sen. McCain and other members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and told them that should an amendment offered by Sen. Simon be added to S. 487 the AGA will vigorously oppose the legislation.
I encourage NIGA and all of those present to send the same message. Sen. Simon is proposing the establishment of a national gaming study commission. The senator’s proposal is similar to one in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia. Both are thinly disguised first steps toward their ultimate objectives, which are to place undue regulatory control and onerous taxes on our industry while they seek to outlaw all gaming. Whether it be destination resorts in Las Vegas, riverboats in Mississippi or casinos on tribal land, Simon and Wolf mean us no good.
It is also important that we ban together to show the public that the gaming—entertainment industry is a good citizen.
In this area, we can all take lessons from many of your member tribes. You have used gaming profits to better the lives of your members though improved health care, education, housing and a host of other areas.
Tribes all across the country, such as the Oneidas of Wisconsin, are building schools, day care centers and a promoting tribal economic development. You are using gaming resources to restore tribal land to its original condition. These are all positive contributions made as a direct result of gaming.
The fact is gaming—entertainment’s record of community involvement is the equal of any other industry, but, as I learned during my many years in politics, the truth is what the people perceive it to be. And we have not done a good job of changing that perception.
One of the broad roles the AGA will play is as an advocate to bring this positive message to elected officials, other decision makers, the public and the media.
We are committed to being an aggressive advocate. The industry will no longer be a passive observer. The AGA is committed to actively refuting misinformation and challenging our critics, but our greatest efforts will be focused toward delivering a positive message to key audiences.
A message that reflects these points:
Gaming is an industry like any other. An industry that deals with personnel issues, safety issues, labor issues, health care issues and tax issues.
Gaming is a major employer. With hundreds of thousands of employees, the gaming industry is a mainstay in the economic health of hundreds of communities.
Gaming is the fastest growing industry in the country. In an era when downsizing is the norm, the gaming-entertainment industry is expanding, creating jobs and, in many areas, reviving struggling economies.
Gaming is a widely-sought entertainment option. We provide adults an attractive entertainment option at a competitive price. An option that a wide majority of the public says it wants.
As I close, let me reiterate an earlier commitment I made to Rick. I have instructed my staff to work closely with the NIGA and we will meet on a monthly basis with your organization. As I have said throughout these comments, our industry has grown to the point where we must work together for the greater good.
Working together we can show that our industry is, like any other part of the entertainment industry, or any other industry for that matter, first and foremost a business. If our businesses prosper we provide the means for mothers and fathers to put food on the table, buy clothing, educate their children and save for the future. The people who work in our industry, raise families, go to church, buy TVs and refrigerators and contribute to their community. They are part of the American mainstream.
Many challenges lay ahead as we move the industry toward the same level of acceptance. The “moralists” will condemn and the “closed-minds” will criticize, but, if we do the right things. If we are aggressive advocates. If we communicate the real facts through effective education programs and if we respond openly and honestly to industry problems we will prevail.