Tuesday January 7,2014 : AMERICAN GAMING ASSOCIATION TO BEEF UP POLITICAL AND GRASS ROOTS ACTIVITY
AGA chief unveils a more aggressive and proactive approach.
Geoff Freeman, the American Gaming Association’s president and chief executive, has revealed that he is building more effective staff, consulting and lobbying resources with a view to taking a more proactive and aggressive approach to US gambling issues, particularly in the evolving online gambling sector.
The Washington DC newspaper The Hill quotes Freeman as saying Monday:
“It's part of a big shift that we are making. We are becoming a more proactive group that is working to define the image of the gaming industry. It's less about legalization and more about defining the image of this industry, not in just Washington but in the states as well.”
The new initiative includes:
* Hiring the Messina Group to help with grassroots campaigns, including support of online gambling. The president of the company, Jim Messina, was President Obama’s campaign manager for his 2012 reelection bid.
* Using the services of John Murray, a senior adviser at Purple Strategies and a former deputy chief of staff for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
* Hiring the High Lantern Group, another consulting firm.
* Boosting AGA staff by five new members in an organisational revamp…these include:
* Sara Rayme, formerly with MGM Resorts International, will be the trade group’s senior vice president of public affairs.
* Chaka Burgess comes from pharmaceutical giant Amgen and will be the AGA’s vice president of government relations.
* Allie Barth, a former Freeman colleague from the US Travel Association, is to become the AGA's senior director of communications.
* Elizabeth Cronan will be director of gaming policy and Virginia Hurt Johnson will be general counsel at the AGA.
Assessing the changes, one Washington lobbyist told The Hill:
“This happens every time when someone new takes over a trade association. They want to push out the old guard and bring in new blood.
“Geoff wants to send the message to Capitol Hill and K Street that the trade group will be more proactive and campaign and grassroots-oriented.”
The Hill says that Freeman has had to contend with disruption from major Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive of Las Vegas Sands Corp., who is actively opposing efforts to federally legalise online gambling on Capitol Hill and at the state level.
“They [the AGA] are trying to block any changes to the Wire Act at the federal level and they are going to fight this out state by state,” said one individual close to the gaming industry.
The AGA expanded its board of directors recently, adding Wynn Resorts, Station Casinos and Churchill Downs Inc. last month (see previous InfoPowa reports.
Brett Hale, senior vice president of corporate affairs at Churchill Downs, told The Hill that his company plans “to move aggressively” into Internet gambling.
“It's certainly a delicate situation because Sheldon is a political force and his view is well-known on Internet gambling. It's going to be tricky for Geoff to navigate those waters because Sheldon is so politically active,” Hale said.
Adelson is lobbying for Congress to stop the legalization of online gambling, and has proposed a rewrite of the 1961 Wire Act to specifically prohibit it. He has also sponsored the new action group Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling