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The American Gaming Association (AGA) is under new leadership, but the top trade group in gaming is still sidestepping one of the industry’s most pressing issues: online gambling.
Early in the tenure of Geoff Freeman, the AGA began advocating for legal, regulated online gambling. The group changed its tune, however, when prominent member Sheldon Adelson decided to wage a one-man war against online gambling.
The AGA has frustratingly avoided the topic ever since, adopting the position of “no position.”
There was some hope that the new AGA — an association that supports online sports betting — would vocally condemn the revised Wire Act interpretation from the US Department of Justice.
That wasn’t the case, though.
Following the DOJ’s reversal of the 2011 opinion, which led to the state-regulated online casino, poker, lottery, and sports betting, AGA executive Sara Slane issued the following statement:
“It is unfortunate that the Department of Justice departed from well-established practice in reversing its previous opinion without a compelling reason to do so. However, the 2018 OLC opinion does not impact the ability for states and Tribes to legalize and regulate gaming on a state-by-state and tribal basis, or for companies to provide the exciting products and entertainment experiences our customers want.
“With over 4,000 regulators and billions of dollars allocated to compliance, casino gaming is one of the most highly regulated industries in the country and for decades has provided its customers with cutting-edge products in a safe, regulated environment pursuant to state, Tribal and federal law. We will work with all stakeholders to preserve the ability of states and Tribes to regulate gaming, and we encourage DOJ to investigate and shut down illegal, unregulated gambling operators who prey on consumers.”
Instead of full-throated opposition, the AGA offered up a meek refutation of the DOJ’s action. To call the opinion “unfortunate” is to downplay its potential impact.
Furthermore, the AGA remains unwilling to so much as mention online gambling, the very crux of the new opinion. That could be taken as a signal that the new association is the same as the old one — kowtowing to Adelson and Las Vegas Sands instead of representing its membership, the industry, and consumers.
The characterization of the decision as unfortunate falls well short of the mark.
In her statement, Slane (pictured) contends that the new opinion “does not impact the ability for states and Tribes to legalize and regulate gaming on a state-by-state and tribal basis, or for companies to provide the exciting products and entertainment experiences our customers want.”
That’s simply not the case. Even if the DOJ doesn’t strictly enforce the opinion, it will have significant consequences.
It already has, in fact.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) recently informed operators that they would not be allowed to house their servers outside of the Commonwealth. Because of the new opinion, the PGCB has decided that transactions must be entirely intrastate in nature, adding additional expense to an already costly market.
As I said on Twitter, now is the time for the AGA to stand up and be counted — to prove it’s on the side of the industry and consumers.