Listening to—and learning about—our members’ needs has been a large part of my job in these initial months as president and CEO of the American Gaming Association. In addition to meeting some of the smart, engaging and hard-working people who make our industry thrive, gaining this familiarity has helped shape my vision for what role the AGA can play in making them even more successful.
To guide our strategy for what the AGA can be moving forward, I am increasingly intrigued by three key functions that allow a trade association to create the most value for its members:
1. Protect from harm. Protecting the industry from harm has been a strong suit of the AGA since it began. Frank Fahrenkopf and the team did a fantastic job shielding the industry from threats and other attacks on its reputation. This will continue to be a priority—and an area where I want us to be even more proactive. The new business environment demands that we move from defense to offense—aggressively promoting our story, engaging our employees and customers, and developing new champions of our industry.
2. Facilitate business growth. Most people don’t think a trade association can drive demand and help accelerate business growth, but I disagree. Creating a favorable business environment in which casinos can thrive is a key function of industry growth. One example where we’re making an impact is through our regulatory reform project. By working with the industry and regulators to streamline costly, redundant and outdated regulations, we can create efficiencies that provide new avenues for our businesses to grow and create new jobs.
That’s just one way we can accelerate opportunities, and I look forward to removing more barriers and growing the pie for everyone in our business. To do this, we must ask provocative questions and challenge ourselves to think bigger. For instance, the latest AGA research shows that more than 76 million Americans, or 34 percent of the U.S. adult population, visited casinos last year. These numbers are the highest they have ever been, and the acceptability of casino gaming continues to hover at over 80 percent of the population.
But we can’t rest there. Part of our role at the AGA should be to ask: Who are those other 66 percent of Americans who didn’t visit? What are their opinions of the gaming industry? How can we inspire them to visit our properties and play our games?
3. Connect and inform. Connecting and informing means making the AGA an organization that adds value to diverse employees across the industry. Of course, working with top executives is vital for guidance and direction on much that we do, but it’s up to the association to expand its reach to create opportunities for other segments of the industry to come together.
G2E is a great example of this, but we can do more. We should create opportunities to network and share, bringing together gaming professionals in key areas like sales and marketing and compliance, both at the corporate and property levels. We would do this with the goal of education, idea-sharing and community building within the industry. Building these networks will strengthen the industry, give everyone a stake in the work we do and empower executives to do their jobs better.
As I continue to develop a strategic plan for the AGA, I’ll do so with these three fundamental goals in mind. I plan to find innovative ways to deliver more value to our members, and the industry at large. I look forward to implementing this vision in the coming months and years and to having you—no matter which segment of the industry you’re in—be a part of it.