Last year was a monumental one for the American Gaming Association, as the organization grew membership by 50 percent, added its first tribal members, expanded our presence with regional operators and deepened our reach into the supplier community.
We also developed a more modernized position on the rapidly evolving issue of sports betting, built strong ties with law enforcement through our efforts to combat illegal gambling and exerted a newfound ability to affect outcomes on Capitol Hill and within federal agencies. A clear example of this was when we galvanized the industry to fight the IRS proposals that would change the tax withholding levels on slot machines and use loyalty marketing cards as a means of tracking consumer winnings.
In 2016, you can count on the AGA to continue to address the most important issues facing the industry, something we’re better positioned to do than ever before. This year, though, several of our initiatives will be new for the AGA, and reflect the constantly evolving role that our members want us to play.
Among these roles will be an increased presence in the states. The gaming industry is largely regulated at the state level, and AGA can provide an industry-wide perspective that will shape debates, policies and regulations.
Building off our efforts in Massachusetts to aggressively promote the industry and push back against outdated stereotypes, AGA will help to shape the discussion in other states that are considering the expansion or introduction of gaming, such as Georgia. Through our Get to Know Gaming campaign, we’ll use authoritative research and rapid-response communications to tout the diversity of good jobs we provide, the economic benefits we generate and the public safety improvements that result once a casino is up and running. AGA will continue to be the biggest champion for gaming.
The second new role will be as a convener on the issue of sports betting. AGA will launch an aggressive campaign to highlight the problem that exists with current sports betting law, and we’ll build a broad coalition to determine whether a rational alternative to current law exists.
The 2016 effort will include robust research, aggressive communications and partnerships with sports leagues, law enforcement and other parties critical to a progressive approach to sports betting. Our efforts will focus on showing that legal and regulated gaming strengthens the integrity of sports.
Of course, even as we branch out into new areas for the AGA, we remain focused on protecting and promoting the industry here in Washington. It’s critically important that members of Congress, and our next president, understand our industry and the economic benefits we provide in 40 states.
That’s why you’ve seen unprecedented engagement from AGA in the presidential campaign through Gaming Votes. As we head into a presidential year, we will continue to hold on-the-ground events in battleground states where gaming is driving big results. Look for us in Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, Michigan and elsewhere as we educate candidates and gaming employees—including through a first-ever voter guide that we’ll release next month.
Through these events, we’re also building more champions for our industry in Congress. Other champion development efforts will include building stronger ties with the Congressional Black Caucus, driving engagement with the Congressional Gaming Caucus and growing our political action committee so we can support those who support us.
In all that we do in the upcoming year, it is critical to represent the totality of the gaming industry, while defending and promoting our industry. The foundation built in the last year will have significant impact for our industry in 2016, and I look forward to our work together.