This year’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) marks the first time this event will be held without Frank Fahrenkopf at the helm of the American Gaming Association. It is a true testament to his leadership that the 2013 show is thriving, and the industry that he led so well for so many years is enjoying unprecedented growth.
Frank’s leadership style and his governing policies helped foster and cultivate that growth. Gaming cannot prosper, and it certainly cannot expand, without the confidence of public officials who authorize the existence of gaming, regulate it and tap into its benefits.
Frank ensured that the casino industry would warrant that confidence, and just as important, he made it the AGA’s business to let public officials at the local, state and national levels know that well-regulated gaming can serve as a powerful economic engine by creating employment opportunities, promoting tourism and generating revenues for government.
His personal touch was also important; as he made everyone he met feel good. He listens well, and he articulates his views succinctly and carefully.
This year’s G2E marks the first time that Geoff Freeman is serving president and CEO of the AGA, and he is a perfect second act for this industry. Geoff does not come from a gaming background, but rather built a career in travel and tourism. In his previous career, he served as chief operating officer and executive vice president for the U.S. Travel Association, an organization that serves effectively as an advocate for increased travel and tourism.
The suggestion that gaming is part of the overall tourism industry is hardly a new one. In markets ranging from Atlantic City to Las Vegas to Biloxi and beyond, gaming has long been positioned as central to the goal of attracting meetings and conventions, as well as independent travelers. As major cities compete for a share of the convention business, gaming is becoming a tool that can be leveraged to help attract conventions and to entertain visitors during their stay.
The biggest challenge facing Geoff is the advent of Internet gaming in the United States, which is beginning in tandem with his tenure. The industry, under his leadership, will have to leverage this opportunity as a means of generating new revenue as well as promoting travel and tourism. The goal will be to make sure that online gaming helps the domestic casino industry, and it surely can.
Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, has long advocated the position that online gaming should not be developed solely as a revenue stream, but should also function as a low-cost means of generating visits to casinos, which is the best way to increase employment and promote tourism. In 2011, Pollock made the following statement in testimony before the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee: “If Internet gaming is allowed to develop as simply a revenue stream, then I suggest the United States has squandered a once-in-a-century opportunity.”
The casino industry, under the leadership of Geoff Freeman, will not allow that opportunity to be squandered. He not only has the experience and skills to take advantage of this opportunity, he can also leverage of the legacy that Frank Fahrenkopf left behind: the confidence of the public, and of public officials, that gaming works.