Year of Unmatched Industry Unity Produces Big Results for GamingBy Geoff Freeman, President, American Gaming AssociationDecember 21, 2016 at 2:26 pmWatch the 2016 highlight videoThis year has been incredibly consequential for gaming. A former casino owner was chosen as the next President of the United States. The casino gaming industry actively engaged in battleground states throughout the campaign season. A presidential debate was held just feet from the Las Vegas Strip. The National Hockey League became the first professional sports league to place a team in Las Vegas; and the National Football League may not be far behind. What made all of these events even more remarkable was that they lacked the tired, old concerns about casino gaming and focused prominently on our industry’s important, mainstream nature.In 2016, the American Gaming Association (AGA) capitalized on opportunities and aggressively communicated gaming’s value to a range of critical stakeholders: lawmakers, regulators, the media, law enforcement and more. None of this could have been achieved, however, without a united industry.The AGA welcomed 21 new members to the organization this year and now represents 87 percent of the commercial gaming industry, 95 percent of the supplier community and more than 25 percent of all tribal gaming revenue. As a unified industry, we can more effectively achieve our shared goals. In 2016, this included:Highlighting our Industry’s Role as Community Partners: Before audiences of key elected officials and the media, we showcased how gaming supports small businesses, employs a diverse workforce, including minority- and women-owned companies, contributes to charitable organizations, and generates unmatched tax revenue in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Biloxi, St. Louis and Philadelphia;Protecting the Industry from Harm: Three critical examples of this in 2016 included the IRS choosing not to pursue a misguided policy to lower slot tax thresholds and track player activity through a “Big Brother” style program, the Justice Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the international Financial Action Task Force praising the gaming industry’s commitment to anti-money laundering compliance and the Federal Trade Commission’s important decision to respect the business value of and consumer benefits associated with resort fees;Providing Timely, Compelling Research: AGA issued a new and improved State of the States; Responsible Gaming Regulations & Statutes; the Illegal Gambling Advisory Board’s After-Action Report showing why sports betting law should be changed; a white paper on sports integrity in the U.K.; and a report on casinos’ commitment to anti-money laundering compliance. Such research serves to open new markets, such as in Japan or Georgia, fight bad policy ideas in existing markets and quickly debunk misinformed critics;Launching a Reinvigorated Global Gaming Expo (G2E): G2E 2016 was a success on many levels, welcoming more than 26,000 attendees, providing high-quality buyers to our 444 exhibitors, demonstrating a vibrant and evolving industry and meeting our revenue targets; andPaving the Way for Regulated Sports Betting in America: Over the last year, the AGA spent a large portion of time defining the problem of illegal sports gambling. This resulted in enhanced research, more widespread media coverage, a stronger partnership with law enforcement and a critical shift in attitudes among the most influential leaders of the leagues.To build off of these accomplishments, AGA in 2017 will focus its efforts in the following key areas:Strengthening Congressional Champion Development Efforts: AGA will continue leveraging our Get to Know Gaming campaign and congressional champion development initiative to build a deeper, wider bench of congressional allies who understand and represent gaming. In the new year, we will turn our attention to proactively engaging with the Trump Administration and incoming members of Congress, educating them on critical issues once they are sworn into office on January 3. AGA has submitted a memo that provides the President-elect Donald J. Trump Transition Team with an overview of the U.S casino industry, its strong economic impacts and the key policy priorities for industry in 2017 and beyond;Enhancing G2E and Adding New Value: AGA will continue our comprehensive efforts to take G2E to the next level. We are also exploring several new ventures that could support your business functions and significantly reduce costs; andAdvancing AGA’s Sports Betting Campaign: The AGA has succeeded through a relentless campaign of exposing the failed federal law that bans sports betting outside of Nevada. Next year, the AGA will focus on creating a coalition of key stakeholders – law enforcement, sports fans, regulatory officials and others – in order to create the best environment needed to pursue legislative action. As we build partnerships with the professional leagues, we will focus on educating champions in Congress, ensuring they fully understand the failings of a 25-year-old sports-betting ban and why legalization is the smart way forward.I thank you for your partnership and support over the last year, but we have more work to do. We value the opportunity to be your partner and look forward to working with you in 2017.