Bill Miller became the third leader of the American Gaming Association in early 2019. A former executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations, Miller hit the ground running at the AGA—he had to, as the U.S. Department of Justice struck down a previous DOJ memo that said the Wire Act applied only to sports betting, not online casinos or lotteries.
Miller has accomplished much in a few months. In August, he sat down with GGB Publisher Roger Gros in his Washington, D.C. office for a GGB Podcast.
GGB: You weren’t an unknown quantity when you were appointed to head the AGA. As a lobbyist, you worked hand-in-hand with the AGA. But there were people that you hadn’t met on the board. How did you go about introducing yourself and explaining your agenda?
Bill Miller: One of the really exciting things is we have a diverse but reasonably limited membership. We have commercial operators, tribal operators and suppliers. We have our friends from the U.K. and Europe who have become more interested in sports betting that aren’t actual members. In total, you’re talking about 100 or so different entities.
I know how the American Gaming Association started, where it started, the importance of Las Vegas as kind of the epicenter of the gaming world. I made a couple trips to Las Vegas to meet with people both during the search process and before I started, in order to try and have them get to know a little bit about me and about my agenda.
The first two leaders of the AGA had different styles. Frank Fahrenkopf’s job was to keep an eye on Capitol Hill and make sure no bad legislation was coming out of there. Geoff Freeman was more proactive about getting the good news about gaming out into the community. What’s your philosophy?
I think I take some good from both. I know that both Geoff and Frank shared the same view, that our industry is so well-regulated at the state level, any kind of federal interference or federal regulation is something we should work to defeat. And that has continued to be the mission, whether it was Fahrenkopf, Freeman or Miller. We all share that view.
What happens on Capitol Hill matters a great deal to us (but) we’re not under constant assault. In fact, most members of Congress recognize that the gaming industry is an economically powerful driver. And we’re in 40-plus states. What I try and bring to this job every day is the ability to tell the story to the right audiences, and many of those audiences that are most important are up on Capitol Hill.
Sports betting has been the big story in the industry over the past couple of years. Are there some hurdles we have to overcome before it’s completely accepted?
Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, there was one state where you could bet on sports. Now there are more than 20. We’re learning from each of those.
One of the most important reasons that the AGA was involved in the sports-betting lawsuit was we recognized how much sports wagering was being done illegally. Our contention all along was if you’re able to legalize sports betting in states, you’re going to begin to destroy the illegal offshore online market that funds other criminal and illicit activities. People have always bet on sports. They’re going to continue to bet on sports. And it’s a better dynamic when they bet on sports in a legal and transparent manner. That’s a worthwhile goal for all of us, including the Department of Justice.
Geoff Freeman forged a great relationship with Ernie Stevens at the National Indian Gaming Association; I think both being from Wisconsin and Packer fans helped. Are you planning to continue that relationship with Ernie as a person and NIGA as an organization?
I spoke to Chairman Stevens on my first or second day here. I believe very strongly that that the 11 tribal operators we have as members are critically important. The story of gaming in the tribal nations is an incredibly important one.
I spoke at NIGA in San Diego. I’m planning to go speak at their mid-year conference in Connecticut. I was on a panel with Chairman Stevens at ICE in London. I’m not a Packers fan, but we’re both big boxing fans, and we’ll talk about boxing. We figured out our connections, and I have great respect for him as a leader of NIGA. And I have a personal affection for him; he’s been very kind and very welcoming to me.
The new AGA State of Play campaign not only looks at commercial gaming in each state, but includes tribal gaming also. Is that because people see gaming as one industry that, whether it be tribal or commercial, still benefits the state in various ways?
Absolutely. Most people who enjoy a regional casino property don’t necessarily care that it’s commercially operated or tribally operated. What they want is an entertaining experience, with good amenities and good restaurants, nice hotel, maybe a golf course. They want an atmosphere that’s lively and fun.
We’re proud to have Native American tribes as part of our membership, along with our commercial operators, the suppliers and manufacturers. We are one. We want the American Gaming Association to be that one source—an honest, clear and transparent source for information.