Whit Askew’s path to gaming wasn’t exactly direct. Arriving in Washington, D.C. with a desire to make a difference, Askew wound up on the staff of House Speaker John Boehner, directing his national political campaigns.
“Those years help me in my day job at the American Gaming Association running the government affairs operations,” he says. “You don’t go to college to learn how to be a casino lobbyist or a trade association advocate. So, the best way to learn is through job experience, working on campaigns, and being in situations you cannot re-create in a classroom.”
Askew joined the AGA six years ago, hired by Frank Fahrenkopf, the former president and CEO of the organization, so he’s had a ringside seat for the changes that have been undertaken since the arrival of current President and CEO Geoff Freeman.
“I’ve seen a remarkable evolution at the AGA in terms of its government affairs and advocacy efforts,” he says. “I’m really proud about the strides the industry and the association have taken, and being a part of that.”
Askew lists Fahrenkopf as one of the reasons he joined the AGA.
“To be able to go from one amazing boss in John Boehner to another amazing—and legendary—boss like Frank Fahrenkopf, you couldn’t write a script about that if you tried,” he says.
At the same time, Askew says the approach of his current boss, of being inclusive and speaking to the totality of the industry, corresponds with his own philosophies.
“Geoff’s approach is leadership and his ability to gain consensus to tough issues, and it helps me do my job better each and every day,” he says. “It’s made me a more well-rounded advocate for the gaming industry.
“In the three short years that Geoff has been here, you’ve seen dramatic progress built on the solid foundation created by Frank and his team.”
As a Republican, Askew might be expected to focus directly on that side of the aisle, but he’s more pragmatic.
“I bleed the AGA first,” he says. “Second, I’m a Republican.
“But I’m comfortable walking into any congressional office. I’m an advocate and will work with anyone willing to participate on either side of the aisle on any issue.”
Askew says he’s helping to garner support for the AGA’s effort to legalize sports betting.
“We’ve got a 25-year-old law that has clearly failed,” he says. “And we know it has failed because there have been trillions of dollars wagered illegally on sporting events during that time. The facts speak for themselves. There’s a thriving black market that fuels illicit activity and harmed the integrity of the games they are trying to protect. This has all happened under a prohibition. We’ve seen this all before. It didn’t work then and it isn’t working now.”
In his advice to young people trying to break into public affairs or a related field, Askew has some simple words.
“Follow your passion,” he says. “Because if you’re not enjoying it on a day-to-day basis with folks you can trust and a team you’re excited to go to work with every day, you probably won’t be as good at your job as you could be. When you follow your passion, you’ll find that you’ll be working with other passionate people and you will all be successful.”