By Geoff Freeman
The American Gaming Association has never been stronger or more inclusive than it is today. Continuing to represent the totality of the casino gaming industry, AGA recently announced the addition of eight new members, marking an increase in membership by more than 50 percent in the last year.
Three of the eight additions joined as board members, including AGS, Cherokee Nation Entertainment and Delaware North. Joining as general members are Acres 4.0, American Casino & Entertainment Properties, FireKeepers Casino, NYX Gaming and Genius Sports.
This growing membership across every sector of the industry is not only uniting the industry, but also positioning us to effectively advocate for the most pressing issues we face.
Like every industry, gaming is focused on identifying the next great growth markets. For decades, this meant geographic expansion.
As we look to our future growth—moving from the $240 billion industry of today to more than $300 billion tomorrow—geographic expansion will pale in comparison to the growth we must drive through public policy modernization.
Reducing egregious tax rates, eliminating antiquated and costly regulations and paving the way for new games that meet the interests of our customers will drive multibillion-dollar growth across our industry.
I can’t think of a better example of that than tapping into America’s passion for sports betting. Since 1992, federal law has largely prohibited sports wagering outside Nevada. A united casino industry, though, can build and lead a broad, effective coalition of all stakeholders to change this. That means bringing together sports teams and league leaders, professional athletes, law enforcement officials, broadcasters and even other areas of the gaming industry such as lotteries. Alignment on a single goal is critical in this day and age to modernizing failed law, curbing illegal gambling, protecting consumers and safeguarding sports integrity.
It’s clear that most sports fans are ready for a change. An AGA survey earlier this year found that 80 percent of Super Bowl watchers want to see a new approach toward sports betting. Two-thirds believe states should decide whether or not to legalize sports betting—just as they decide whether or not to allow casino gaming.
With the possibility of an NFL or NHL team playing home games in Las Vegas, it’s also clear that many who work in and around professional sports still believe that athletes and casinos cannot co-exist in the same city. AGA, however, released information showing that they already do. In fact, more than 80 percent of NFL teams play home games within a one-hour drive of a casino.
Before we can give sports fans what they want, we need action from Congress. We all recognize this isn’t going to happen in 2017. We need to be committed over the long haul to creating an environment where the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is possible.
Over the last year, AGA has guided the industry in reaching consensus on sports betting; now that we’re unified, we’re building a broader coalition and putting our strategy into action.
For example, we’re activating key stakeholders—such as law enforcement, sports leagues and athletes—to highlight the failure of the current law and communicate a more effective solution. We’re deploying our third-party allies and our grassroots network to promote change with key members of Congress. And we’re identifying sports betting champions in Congress who will aggressively push for change.
With a united industry, a broad coalition of stakeholders and an effective strategy, we believe it’s possible give American sports fans what they want. That’s an effort that can move the needle for our entire industry, and it’s a future that will benefit us all.
Geoff Freeman is President & CEO of the American Gaming Association