This is my first column since taking the reins as the new leader of the American Gaming Association. As I expect to do for years to come, I’d like to begin by thanking Frank Fahrenkopf for the incredible foundation he built and the talented team he put in place.
Over 18 years, Frank, his team and other industry leaders made possible the expansion the gaming industry has enjoyed in the United States and beyond. When the AGA was created, the movie Casino was on its way to becoming a box office success, and the perception of our industry was one not conducive to growth. In this environment, Washington could have done much to inhibit the gaming industry’s success. But it didn’t.
The AGA made great strides in placing a new face on the gaming industry under Frank’s leadership, convinced policymakers of its enormous economic impact and made a commitment to responsible gaming that made our industry a model for many others. The result was a relatively stable operating environment where the commercial gaming industry could work with regulators in more than 20 states and many more nations around the world to build a product that best suited the needs of individual communities.
With such great success under the AGA’s belt, the question I most often hear is: “What’s next?” What’s next for online gaming? What is the role of the AGA at the federal level, state level and globally? What is our relationship with tribes and lotteries? What are the three-to-five most important things the AGA wishes to accomplish over the next several years?
These are some of the many questions that need to be answered.
My intention is to work closely with the board and staff to produce a compelling strategic plan that addresses these issues and many more, to drive alignment around our key priorities and to ensure that all those who touch the AGA are equipped to answer the question, “What’s next?”
The first step in this effort is to listen. The gaming community is full of experts, veterans of battles long since past and visionaries of a brighter future. Listening to and learning from these individuals has already been richly rewarding, and is certain to open new doors for the AGA to enter.
With the input we receive, the team at AGA will work together to assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats confronting our association and industry. This analysis is a critical first step in producing a durable and compelling platform that the industry can rally around as it enters a new era.
While we do not yet know all of the components of our future strategy, a sneak peek at three things likely to be at the center of our efforts are to (1) continue to tell our industry’s story, (2) capitalize on those things that make our industry unique and (3) deepen partnerships with like-minded organizations:
• Telling a Favorable Story—The gaming industry is producing hundreds of thousands of jobs, strengthening local communities, providing educational funding for millions of children and doing so from coast to coast. Effectively telling this story will remain critical to growth, protecting the industry from passionate critics and positioning the industry to be an even more respected player in important public policy discussions.
• Capitalize on Our Unique Assets—My background in health insurance, pharmaceuticals and other “vilified” industries teaches me that gaming has several unique and positive traits that other industries are desperate to obtain. Widely recognized brand names, passionate customers, proud employees and a culture of innovation are assets that we are certain to capitalize on when it comes to strengthening our industry’s foundation.
• Deepen Our Partnerships—The gaming industry has diversified in recent years, developing an expertise in lodging, retail, restaurants, meetings and conventions and other important components of the American economy. Deepening our partnerships with these sectors and associations will help to increase the list of allies supporting our efforts and expose our increasingly sophisticated industry to broader public policy matters.
I am humbled and excited to be a part of this vibrant industry. Gaming is well positioned to thrive in the years ahead, and we possess a unique set of assets that, if leveraged effectively, promise a new era of thrilling and rewarding opportunities. The AGA team is excellent, the AGA’s reputation in Washington is strong and the AGA’s opportunities are significant. It is an honor to succeed Frank Fahrenkopf and to build upon his organization’s many successes. I look forward to working with you as together we write our industry’s next chapter.