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Gaming group will help lobby against Yucca Mountain project

Nevada will have an advocate in the American Gaming Association against any effort to revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository northwest of Las Vegas.

AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman, in an end-of-the-year press conference call Tuesday, also said he is optimistic that the $240 billion commercial casino industry would be able to successfully lobby for legal, regulated sports wagering nationwide and that the association would work with the incoming administration to battle against illegal gambling.

Earlier this month, the AGA sent a three-page memorandum outlining its position on gaming issues to the transition team of President-elect Donald Trump and among its positions is opposition to the underground facility for nuclear waste that has been battled by the state’s congressional delegation since it was conceived in the 1980s.

The Obama administration helped block the program by cutting off funding to Yucca Mountain in 2011, but there have been indications that the Trump administration would try to revive the plan to ship radioactive spent nuclear fuel to federal land in Nye County.

“We express serious concerns with any efforts to revive Yucca Mountain as a home for the nation’s nuclear waste,” the AGA said in its memorandum to the Trump team.

“Yucca Mountain is located just 90 miles from Las Vegas and any problems with the transport of nuclear waste to the site or issues with its storage there would bring potentially devastating consequences to the world’s premier tourist destination and the industry, which all Nevadans rely on in one way or another.”

Freeman said one transportation accident would not only devastate the nation’s most vital entertainment center but also the state’s entire economy.

In the memorandum, the association also addressed issues involving anti-money-laundering compliance, off-reservation tribal gaming, tax reform, immigration, travel and tourism and infrastructure improvements.

In the conference call, Freeman said recent events in Las Vegas — the approval of a National Hockey League franchise for the city, ongoing efforts to relocate the Oakland Raiders to Southern Nevada and the successful airing of the third presidential debate on the UNLV campus — prove that the gaming industry has gone mainstream and has made considerable progress over a short period of time.

“That and the fact that a former casino owner was elected president … five or 10 years ago, that wouldn’t have happened,” Freeman said.

Freeman advocated a robust and secure visa waiver program, noting that providing a safe travel environment and a welcoming environment for visitors can occur simultaneously if done properly.

He added that the association is anxious to work with Trump to build a public policy environment that is conducive to reinvestment and innovation, which he said are two essential elements of a successful entertainment product.

The organization is encouraged by Trump having once been a casino owner and familiar with many of the industry’s issues, but wanted to update him on how the industry has evolved recently and on the association’s 2017 goals.

“AGA looks forward to working with the Trump administration and members of Congress from both parties to advance shared priorities that strengthen the American economy, create jobs, provide millions of dollars in revenues for vital public services and foster an efficient regulatory environment that promotes growth, innovation and reinvestment,” the memorandum said.

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

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