We’re only a few months into 2015, but already we’ve made significant positive changes to the AGA that are uniting the industry and giving us a stronger voice on important issues here in Washington and in each of the 40 states where gaming operates.
In January we announced six new board members, including the first tribal casino. In March, we added four more board members. Through these changes, we’re being inclusive of new players and more communicative and more transparent in our initiatives. These new members will make our organization and the gaming industry even stronger as we tackle important issues.
One of those issues is a complex, sweeping proposal by the IRS. Working with the industry’s leading tax policy experts, we have begun a deep analysis of the proposal. We have held extensive consultations over the past two weeks with a wide range of members. While we have heard a variety of viewpoints regarding the proposal, on one point members have been crystal clear and unanimous: all oppose lowering the reporting threshold on gaming winnings from $1,200 to $600.
This threshold has not been updated since Jimmy Carter was president and Saturday Night Fever debuted on the silver screen. To now cut the threshold in half will create burdensome, unnecessary paperwork and reporting requirements and severely undermine the customer experience.
In addition to the IRS issue, we’re advocating for the next attorney general to take action to crack down on illegal gambling operations. In response to a question during her nomination hearing about how she would tackle illegal gambling, Loretta Lynch expressed a strong desire to take on this challenge. In the coming months, you will see an unprecedented level of collaboration between industry and law enforcement—whether sheriffs, district attorneys, state attorneys general or the Department of Justice.
And we’re seeking a higher ranking for Las Vegas in the Department of Homeland Security’s grant programs, to enable the city to receive an increase in much-needed security funding. This funding is needed to protect Nevada’s $53 billion gaming industry, its residents, and the 40 million visitors each year. We’re working hand in hand with the city and the Nevada delegation to ensure the unique characteristics of Las Vegas, and gaming in general, are taken into consideration.
Further, our work with FinCEN continues to ensure a strong, collaborative partnership with the gaming industry. Earlier this year, FinCEN released new guidance for sports books operations—guidance that we welcomed, confident that our members are already employing robust anti-laundering measures in this area. However, we made sure to note that the risk of money laundering is far greater in the vast, unregulated, illegal sports betting market, where no oversight exists whatsoever.
Given this increased scrutiny, we’ve made a point to highlight just how large the illegal sports betting market is. Illegal betting on the Super Bowl, for example, encompasses a market that is 38 times greater than the legal sports betting market. For March Madness, $9 billion in betting will have taken place, with the vast majority of that being outside of the legal, regulated Las Vegas sports books. We continue to discuss the topic of sports betting with our members to determine the best way to address this issue.
Finally, I’ve emphasized that AGA seeks to be a passionate champion for gaming. Through our “Get to Know Gaming” campaign, we’re doing just that. In February, we launched our Faces of Gaming initiative to highlight the employees of the industry, with new research showing that gaming offers more than 200 different career paths and provides a path to the middle class for workers of all backgrounds. We look forward to highlighting employees in gaming markets across the country, many of whom will have the opportunity to play a role in choosing our next president.
Because gaming supports more than half a million jobs and $75 billion in revenue in key presidential states, we launched Gaming Votes to flex our muscle as an industry. This is a first-of-its-kind foray for the gaming industry into presidential politics that is educating candidates about the economic benefits of our industry and educating our employees about the candidates.
Today, with gaming in 40 states, every federal issue affects gaming in some way, whether it’s tax reform, immigration reform, trade or health care.
Beyond D.C., we’re playing an active role in states, whether it’s providing the facts in Florida or pushing back against ill-conceived tax increases on table games in Maryland. More broadly, I was in Las Vegas in March to lay out a framework for “Next Generation Gaming Policy” principles that streamline regulations, remove barriers to innovation and encourage regulators to be more nimble.
It’s clear that the policies that have guided the gaming industry for the past 20 years are, in many instances, obstacles to the industry’s future success. In a highly competitive environment, the gaming industry must be empowered to meet changing consumer demands, reinvest in its product and rapidly innovate. Over the coming weeks and months, we will be elaborating on this framework of Next Generation Gaming Policy, which will address key topics that include taxation, reinvestment, responsible gaming, shipping requirements, licensing and more.
It’s as busy a time as ever for gaming, with many exciting opportunities to move our industry forward. We are tackling these opportunities, as well as the challenges, every day. With a more transparent, inclusive AGA, we’re well-positioned to address every issue with a unified voice that’s as strong as it’s ever been.