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American Gaming Association shifting its representation of industry

There’s no doubt the gaming industry is expanding and maturing — we see it every day in Las Vegas, while states across the country add to their offerings, challenging Nevada to up its game to maintain its grip on the title “Entertainment Capital of the World.”

Just as gaming is maturing, so, too, is the association that represents all aspects of the $261 billion industry that provides 1.8 million jobs nationwide.

The American Gaming Association, the organization that brings G2E — the Global Gaming Expo — to Las Vegas every fall, is undergoing a subtle shift in its representation of the industry.

It started at the beginning of this year with the hiring of Bill Miller as the AGA’s new president and CEO.

Miller wasn’t an industry guy, spending the previous six years of his career as senior vice president of the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs that promotes a thriving U.S. economy through sound public policy.

Miller spent his first six months with the AGA assessing the next steps for the industry as it matures.

“I think the focus for AGA now is about prioritizing strengths the organization has and the potential threats that exist and how we basically mitigate those threats with better government relations, better grassroots, better research and better communication,” Miller said in a recent interview.

While a reprioritization of the AGA’s mission is a new focus, it’s clear the gaming industry continues to expand, thanks to the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision enabling sports wagering to be allowed across the nation.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation legalizing sports betting. So far, there are eight states with operational sportsbooks, and that number will continue to increase in the months ahead.

That means the AGA will continue to have to explain the industry in new jurisdictions where the new form of gambling emerges.

Miller said that will occur through a new emphasis on research, a familiar strategy employed by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The LVCVA operates a robust research department that churns out statistics and reports that help guide marketing decisions so that resorts can get the most bang for their buck when they recruit visitors.

Through research, data, surveys and reports, the AGA will continue to tell the industry’s story with details on economic development and job growth while dispelling myths about increased crime whenever gaming enters a market.

Miller noted that the gaming industry’s role in expanding a community’s economy has been underreported on Capitol Hill, and he believes research and reports can reverse that trend.

He also said research has played a role in keeping sports leagues from convincing lawmakers to legislate “integrity fees” or require payment for official data to settle wagers.

“They’re 0 for 19 so far,” Miller said of bids by leagues to incorporate fees into new sports-betting legislation.

“In the states that have debated this and litigated out the issue, they’ve all come down the same way,” Miller said. “The leagues obviously have a responsibility to run their teams with integrity, but they had that responsibility well before sports betting moved into these states. That’s why the legislators reject that argument that there be an additional fee to do what they had done previously.”

The AGA is also working to expand the industry abroad.

Gaming’s next frontier is in Japan. Lawmakers there already have received reports from UNLV’s International Gaming Institute, and the AGA is helping association members deliver research points on matters like crime and compulsive gambling.

A big emphasis in Japan is safety, and the AGA is providing data on how crime does not increase in communities where they’ve been introduced. They’re also explaining how responsible gaming programs have helped minimize addictive gambling behavior on a casino floor.

As gambling expands at home and abroad, the AGA says it will continue to tell gaming’s success stories to make the industry larger and stronger.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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