By the time you read this at G2E, I imagine we’ll know who has replaced Geoff Freeman in the top spot at the American Gaming Association (AGA).

His replacement will have big shoes to fill, just as Freeman did when he replaced Frank Fahrenkopf, the AGA’s first CEO, in 2013.

Freeman’s accomplishments were many. He built a broader, more inclusive trade group, strengthening ties with tribal gaming, state trade associations and industry suppliers. And when there was a public conversation to be had on any given issue, under Freeman’s leadership the AGA delivered in a substantial way, most notably on the question of sports betting.

So as the AGA moves forward, it’s worth reviving some comments Freeman made at the AGS GameON user conference last June. When asked how the industry pushes the ball down field and stays relevant to a younger audience, here’s what Freeman had to say: “The biggest opportunity facing the industry is not eSports, it’s not skill-based gaming, it’s not something else that’s going to look like sports betting… I think the biggest opportunity as we move forward is to look at the inefficiencies that were larded onto this industry as we expanded beyond Nevada and New Jersey, particularly in commercial jurisdictions. Inefficiencies in the regulatory process; barriers that prevent us to move toward a more cashless environment; the things that kind of trap our industry in a 1987 or 1995 environment. I do believe if you begin to peel those off, you begin to see bottom-line revenue opportunities of a size and scope that are frankly much, much bigger than sports betting.”

Freeman added that the AGA had recently ran a focus group on the issue of responsible gaming. “As an industry, I think we’ve looked at responsible gaming for many years as a cost of doing business,” he said. “Well that cost of doing business means that in every market in which we operate, we don’t really know what works in the area of responsible gaming. People aren’t concerned about traffic problems or crime; those old issues. They’re concerned about addiction. And in the absence of the industry coming up with things that work, jurisdictions have thrown out a bunch of things that really tie our hands in terms of how we can operate.”

He noted that the state of Maryland had a debate about gaming last year and the topic was how close an ATM can be to a slot machine. The state said 15 feet, the industry said seven and they compromised at 11 feet.  “Does anyone in the world believe that the location of that ATM has anything to do with protecting someone who needs assistance? Of course not. Does it begin to affect the experience of our costumer? Possibly. How do we begin to go on offense and bring a more informed approach to an issue like responsible gaming and tear down some of these really bad ideas that are tying our hands and limiting our ability to provide our customers with the experience that they want to have? I think that’s the great opportunity in our industry and I hope that where the AGA goes in the next decade.”

THE CUTTING EDGE TABLE GAMES CONFERENCE

Next month (November 5-7), Casino Journal will present its annual table games event at Paris Las Vegas. Among the highlights this year will be the return of Bill Zender’s popular opening day workshop; an opening keynote delivered by Dan Cherry, corporate vice president of gaming operations, Penn National and Hollywood Casinos; a luncheon keynote from Bennie Mancino, corporate vice president of table games, JACK Entertainment; two sessions led by Dennis Conrad, one on craps, the other his signature advantage player interview session; and, of course, the Best New Table Games contest. Exhibitors with new games at the conference will have dedicated “play time” during the opening night reception and all networking breaks between sessions. Attendees, namely table game operators and other casino executives from across the casino industry, will participate and cast a vote for the best new table game. The winners of the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards will be announced Wednesday afternoon, November 7, with Gold winners earning an opportunity to have their game played live on the casino floor.

But enough from me, here’s what Johnny Walker, director of gaming operations, Muckleshoot Casino, a longtime attendee and speaker at the event, and a regular sponsor property of the Best New Table Game winner, had to say: “I look forward to the table games conference each year.  This is the venue we dedicate our time and attention to look at new ideas, products and table game opportunities to place on our floor.” 

Hope to see you there.