Frank Fahrenkopf will step down this summer as the only president and chief executive officer that the American Gaming Association has ever known. The 73-year-old has helmed the organization since it was launched in 1995 as the voice of the casino industry in Washington, D.C.
That job could not always have been easy, especially given the division within the gaming industry on issues such as American Indian casinos. Mr. Fahrenkopf’s job, in part, was to bring the powerful and often mercurial personalities behind the nation’s casinos together, and he did it well.
Mr. Fahrenkopf, a Reno native, graduated from UNR in 1962 and from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 1965. He returned to Nevada to start his career as a gaming lawyer. But it was as chairman of the Republican Party that Mr. Fahrenkopf gained a national profile. He served in that role from 1983 to 1989, during President Ronald Reagan’s two terms. He continues to stay involved in politics as co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, an organization he co-founded with his opposite number from the Democratic National Committee in 1986.
But Mr. Fahrenkopf’s devotion to the Republican Party never got in the way of his effective representation of the gaming industry in Washington. If anything, it gave him added credibility and stature in Washington, where he unabashedly spoke up for Nevada’s No. 1 industry to sometimes skeptical lobbyists, lawmakers and journalists alike.
From an era where casino gaming was relatively rare and confined to specific places to today, with 22 states having commercial casinos and nearly all offering some form of legalized gambling, Mr. Fahrenkopf helped lead an era of rapid growth for the industry. Finding a suitable successor isn’t going to be easy.