Stars Group, GVC, Paddy Power Betfair Join American Gaming Association

The AGA Might Be Closer To Shifting Its Online Gambling Position With New Members

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The American Gaming Association is a trade association that represents casino and gaming interests in the United States.

To say the group has a difficult job is an understatement. The AGA is tasked with bringing together business rivals in an effort to advance the greater good of the industry. With so many disparate interests, some wielding more power than others, consensus can be elusive.

Take online gambling, an issue that has (unequally) divided AGA members for several years.

Online poker and casino has been such a hot-button issue among AGA members that the organization decided to rescind its support of legal, regulated online gambling in 2014. At that point, the association settled on the position of having no stated online gambling position.

That decision was made shortly after Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson launched his public campaign against online gambling.

The position was never on solid footing, and indications (here and here) that the AGA wasn’t fully enamored with its neutrality have popped up from time to time. One example is the group’s latest list of new members.

Changing membership

The AGA, long dominated by land-based casino interests, is no longer so homogenous. The body recently announced its six newest members, which include several companies with online gambling interests:

  • BMM Testlabs
  • Choctaw Casinos and Resorts
  • Golden Entertainment
  • GVC Holdings PLC
  • Paddy Power Betfair
  • The Stars Group

AGA CEO and President Geoff Freeman welcomed new members in a press release.

“More than ever before, AGA’s diverse membership reflects the broad interests of the casino gaming industry,” Freeman said.

AGA now includes multiple online-centric companies. In addition to The Stars Group (parent company of PokerStars) and GVC Holdings, NYX Gaming joined in 2016.

Multiple casinos with current online gambling websites in New Jersey also stand among AGA members:

  • MGM Resorts
  • Caesars Entertainment
  • Mohegan Sun
  • Rush Street Gaming
  • Seminole Hard Rock Gaming (planned)

What’s more, several other casinos expected to be involved in the forthcoming online gambling industry in Pennsylvania:

  • Greenwood Racing
  • Wind Creek Hospitality
  • Penn National
  • Boyd Gaming
  • Cordish Company

The evolving membership puts the current, uncommitted AGA position toward online gambling in a tenuous position. But it’s not quite ready to give up its stated neutrality just yet.

In a statement to Online Poker Report, a spokesperson said “AGA maintains its neutral position on online gaming, no change to the position.”

How do you square this circle?

The AGA has managed to maintain radio silence on the issue of online gambling, but it’s been at the forefront of the fight to legalize sports betting in the United States. This includes mobile wagering, a euphemism for online sports betting.

If pressed, the AGA would have a hard time explaining its non-position on online gaming while simultaneously supporting legislation that includes mobile sports betting.

Continued progress makes opposition untenable

Online gambling is rapidly spreading across the US.

  • Online lotteries are legal in six states
  • Casino games and/or poker online are legal in four states
  • Nineteen states enacted DFS laws
  • Online sports betting is available in Nevada
  • No fewer than six states have active online gambling/online lottery legislation

The AGA will find its conflicting positions increasingly difficult to explain as online gambling becomes more normalized.

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A roadblock removed?

One hurdle to AGA standing behind online gambling is no longer in place: Steve Wynn. Wynn wasn’t openly fighting against online gambling like Sheldon Adelson, but his company opposed legalization efforts.

With Wynn out of the picture, finding opposition to online gambling among AGA members, or the gaming industry in general, is increasingly difficult. The only other casino owner to publicly support Adelson is John Farahi, the CEO of Monarch Casino & Resort, which owns the Atlantic Casino Resort & Spa in Reno, Nev.

The online gambling position of Wynn Resorts’ new leadership is unclear. But as one of the AGA’s most prominent members, a shift from opposition to support could lead to the AGA shifting from neutral to supportive.

No matter where Wynn lands, it’s safe to say the AGA’s no-position days are numbered. It’s getting harder and harder for the group to simply ignore online gambling.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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