AGA chief sees little hope of Web gaming legislation moving ahead in Congress

25 September 2013

LAS VEGAS -- Geoff Freeman didn’t shy away from wading into the Internet gaming debate.

At his first Global Gaming Expo (G2E) as CEO of the American Gaming Association, Freeman said Tuesday that the Washington, D.C.-based organization would step up the effort for federal passage of online gaming legislation, although he didn’t hold out much hope of the issue gaining any traction in Congress.

“Anyone who has been to Washington recently knows that the environment for getting a bill done is not there,” Freeman said during a media briefing before the opening of the G2E at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

American Gaming Association officials said more than 460 exhibitors were unveiling the newest gaming products in more than 286,000 square feet of floor space. The association produces the trade show and conference with Reed Exhibitions.

Freeman, who has been on the job since June, said Americans are spending $2.6 billion on illegal offshore wagering despite the April 2011 crackdown on Internet poker by federal prosecutors.

Americans accounted for nearly 10 percent of the $33 billion wagered online worldwide last year, according to a study by H2 Gambling Capital.

Freeman said the trade organization and lobbying group wants a federal solution to online gaming because it would set minimum standards for consumer protection, create a regulatory framework that would include an avenue for Native American casino operators to enter the online market, and provide a method to prosecute illegal operators.

“It is past time for policymakers to put necessary safeguards in place,” he said.

Freeman showed a video ad the organization produced that it plans to air in conjunction with the release next month of the movie “Runner Runner,” a fictional account of illegal online poker starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake. But theaters declined to air the advertisement, he said.

“We’ll get the ad out there and it will educate policymakers and engage the general public,” Freeman said.

Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have enacted Internet gaming laws, but Freeman said a federal solution is preferred by the gaming industry, rather than a state-by-state effort.

“The alternative to the approach AGA recommends is a state-by-state patchwork of regulations across a borderless Internet where the black market will continue to thrive in states that choose not to pass legislation,” Freeman said.

Freeman replaced Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., who was the only CEO the American Gaming Association has known in its 17 years. Fahrenkopf attended Freeman’s media briefing Tuesday.

Freeman, the former chief operating officer of the U.S. Travel Association, said there are many similarities between the two industries.

Travel, however, is not as heavily regulated as the gaming industry, he said.

“Even in a heavily regulated environment, our industry can be effective,” Freeman said.

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