A letter from Geoff Freeman, American Gaming Association president and CEO:
It has been a momentous year for gaming. The success our industry achieved in 2017 is a direct result of increased engagement, greater unity and stronger collaboration. AGA has leveraged these emerging strengths and through effective research, lobbying and communications campaigns, our industry has advanced business priorities.
As we approach the New Year, it’s helpful to look back at the most significant accomplishments from 2017 and look ahead to next steps in 2018.
1. Pivoting to offense: AGA serves as the industry’s leading advocate by aggressively seizing promising opportunities.
- Setting the stage for a legal, regulated, nationwide sports betting market: The gaming industry has played a critical role in generating an entirely new national conversation about legalizing sports betting. Our strategy, built in partnership with our members and grounded in research, has defined the issue; cultivated innovative partnerships with law enforcement, elected officials and other influencers in the American Sports Betting Coalition; and proactively educated sports leagues and broadcasters about the opportunities associated with a legal, regulated market. In 2018, we will continue to:
- Serve as the hub for all stakeholders (leagues, law enforcement, broadcasters);
- Lead the effort to educate Congress on the failure of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA);
- Cultivate strategic alliances to promote a PASPA repeal (i.e. U.S. Conference of Mayors and National Conference of State Legislatures); and
- Support state and tribal officials (aiming to build upon the 30 pieces of sports betting legislation that were introduced in 15 states in 2017) in their effort to develop sound public policy for a sustainable sports betting marketplace.
- Ensuring the gaming industry benefits from the most significant tax overhaul in a quarter century: Recognizing the opportunities and challenges presented by major changes to the federal tax code, AGA engaged Members of Congress and partnered with business community allies to protect core interests and pass legislation that was a net positive for the gaming industry:
- The industry emerged with several key victories that supplemented the significant corporate tax rate deduction from 35 percent to 21 percent. The final agreement largely preserves itemized gambling deductions; exempts most operators from limitations on interest deductibility; helps ensure favorable rules for a territorial system for taxing overseas earnings; and upholds the tax credit for research and development; and
- The tax reform debate also presented a forum for driving our goal of increasing the slot reporting threshold. We will continue to push for reducing unnecessary costs and improving the customer experience by increasing that threshold in 2018.
- Advancing NextGen regulation: The gaming industry is hamstrung by outdated regulations based on antiquated, discredited stereotypes. AGA’s NextGen initiative educates lawmakers and regulators about the need for reforms that will enable our industry to innovate and improve the customer experience:
- In 2017, we coalesced regulators and addressed key issues such as improving the licensing process by ensuring credit checks are accurately performed; identifying inefficient shipping regulations; and modernizing background check requirements. In 2018, we will drive an aggressive strategy to streamline equipment shipping and other efficiencies for AGA members.
2. Sharing gaming’s success story: Perception drives public policy. Creating positive gaming impressions among legislators, regulators and other stakeholders is essential for gaming to thrive.
AGA’s Get to Know Gaming (G2KG) campaign, which highlights the undeniably positive impact our industry has in communities across the U.S., actively shapes these perceptions. The 2017 G2KG events engaged Congressional and local elected champions; promoted AGA member contributions to communities; and broadly articulated gaming’s extensive value proposition to state officials and other stakeholders. We highlighted the gaming industry’s success from coast-to-coast with a particular focus on our benefits to small businesses. In 2018, we will turn our attention to the districts of federal lawmakers who sit on key committees of jurisdiction over gaming issues. Stay tuned to learn more about how to participate.
3. Providing new value to members: AGA constantly strives to enhance its value to members. In 2017, we convened a robust, successful G2E Las Vegas despite the October 1 tragedy that shook our industry, the Las Vegas community and the world. We are grateful to our industry and all of our partners who rose to new heights at one of our lowest moments.
Additionally, AGA initiated a series of summits to raise awareness on issues of significance to the industry and on gaming’s role in addressing public policy challenges. We received positive feedback on our Cybersecurity, Innovation and Anti-Human Trafficking events. Next year, we will continue to bring the industry together on important issues shaping your business and the industry.
4. Developing a compelling plan for the future: With the industry’s support and engagement, AGA finalized a three-year strategic plan that will guide our activities through 2020. We will kick off 2018 with a surgical focus in the following areas:
- Cultivating champions on Capitol Hill and in state capitals across America by hosting G2KG events, building the Congressional Gaming Caucus and expanding AGA’s political action committee;
- Promoting gaming’s strong economic impact through research and targeted communications to stakeholders with the greatest ability to influence our industry;
- Deepening our collective commitment to responsible gaming by aggressively activating the newly formed Responsible Gaming Collaborative;
- Expanding growth opportunities for our members by driving educated and informed discussions about casino gaming innovation and development, streamlining inefficient policies and modernizing gaming laws; and
- Enhancing the value of AGA membership with additional cost savings and benefit offerings.
We are thankful for your engagement and support of the AGA. I feel passionately that our industry is strongest when it works together. We witnessed signs of that in 2017 and are on the cusp of accomplishing great things together in 2018. Please continue to actively participate and provide your counsel as it is critical to any success we may enjoy.
On behalf of everyone at AGA, thank you and Happy Holidays.