Global Gaming Expo: Latest vote provides hope

15 November 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- As a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. didn't have much to smile about from the outcome of last week's national midterm elections, where Republicans were swept out of power in both houses of Congress.

As president of the American Gaming Association, however, the results were to his liking.

The new congressional leadership that is expected to take over in January means the legalized gambling industry may find friends on both sides of the aisle. Educating members of Congress on gaming's primary issues won't be a major endeavor.

"You can go down the list and clearly, with regards to leadership in both houses, there are people who have knowledge about our industry and a fundamental understanding of how our industry works, and that's a positive," Fahrenkopf said Tuesday before the opening of the Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The American Gaming Association is one of the event's co-sponsors.

"That doesn't mean they'll vote for everything we want or against everything we don't want, but we have people there who are educated about the gaming industry," Fahrenkopf said.

The only president that the American Gaming Association has known in its 10-year run, Fahrenkopf was upbeat on a number of issues as the industry's largest trade show kicked off its three-day conference.

Fahrenkopf said more than 780 companies were participating in this year's show, up from 700 last year. The amount of exhibition space has increased to 322,000 square feet, from 278,000 in 2005.

He expects G2E's attendance to increase to more than 28,000 when the final registrations are tallied, up from 26,603 a year ago.

"Compared to where we were when we started six years ago, the show has grown 255 percent (in terms of the number of companies participating)," Fahrenkopf said.

The success of the G2E in Las Vegas has led the show's producers to develop an event for the Asian gaming market. The G2E Asia will be held next June in Macau, China, and Fahrenkopf said the 2008 G2E Asia will be at the Venetian Macau, currently being built by Las Vegas Sands on the Cotai Strip.

While the growth of the G2E pleased Fahrenkopf, news that Nevada Sen. Harry Reid had officially been voted in by his Democratic colleagues Tuesday morning as the majority leader of the U.S. Senate gave him a sense of comfort.

Reid, a former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, may be the member of Congress with the greatest understanding of how the gaming industry works, Fahrenkopf said. When he returns to the gaming association's headquarters in Washington, D.C., Fahrenkopf hopes to have a receptive audience on Capitol Hill.

One issue that could be re-visited is a proposed federal study on the prospects and feasibility of regulating Internet gaming. The American Gaming Association took a stand eight months ago to support a study. Reid, who has expressed his opposition to Internet gaming, has supported a federal study along with other members of the Nevada congressional delegation.

"Our board will meet on December 6, and with the new Congress taking over in January, we'll probably look at whether or not the question of a federal study should be reintroduced," Fahrenkopf said. "Our people believe the technology exists to regulate Internet gaming."

The American Gaming Association touts itself as an educational arm for the industry, and the election gives the advocacy group some fresh faces.

"The changes are positive," Fahrenkopf said. "One of the major problems our industry has had for years was getting legislators and members of Congress to understand our industry. We have always tried to bring members of Congress to Las Vegas on a regular basis to educate them."

Some those who have participated in the gaming sponsored educational trips will find themselves in leadership roles after Jan. 1. Fahrenkopf said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the expected chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is familiar with the gaming industry.

Republican political strategist Sig Rogich agreed with Fahrenkopf's assessment. He said the more conservative members of Congress, who have tried to curtail the expansion of legalized gaming, no longer have significant leadership positions.

"Some of the most outrageous proposals that came from the far right will now go by the wayside," Rogich said. "I think the changes speak well for Nevada and the gaming industry. There are people in leadership who understand the significant and positive role gaming plays in the economy."

The expected Republican minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is from Kentucky, "a gambling state that knows the importance of the racing industry," Fahrenkopf said. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., who is from Pascagoula on the casino-rich Mississippi Gulf Coast, said he would seek election as Republican Senate whip.

Fahrenkopf said the expected House Judiciary chairman, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., is from Detroit, which is home to three casinos. The incoming chairman of the House committee overseeing Homeland Security is Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who represents Tunica, the state's largest riverboat casino community.

"Having people in leadership with that type of understanding is important for our industry," Fahrenkopf said.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2006
District of Columbia Online Gambling
Nevada Online Gambling
American Gaming Association

Copyright GamingWire. All rights reserved.