American Gaming Association

AGA Adds Six Corporate Members Including GVC, Paddy Power, and The Stars Group

Yesterday, March 15th, the American Gaming Association announced the addition of six new corporate members to its lengthy roster of casino-entertainment companies, gaming developers and related services. Among the six are three companies that can be expected to be proactive on online-gambling topics: GVC Holdings PLC, Paddy Power Betfair and The Stars Group (parent company of global online-poker market leader PokerStars).

The three companies are newly joined in the AGA’s corporate membership ranks by BMM Testlabs, Choctaw Casinos and Resorts, and Golden Entertainment. BMM Testlabs is a private independent gaming testing laboratory that works on the development side of the industry, while Choctaw and Golden are land-based casino entities. Choctaw runs a major tribal-casino enterprise in Oklahoma, while Golden Entertainment owns seven properties in Las Vegas and Pahrump, notably including the Stratosphere and Arizona Charlie’s.

All six new AGA members joined the AGA as board-level members, which provides some level of voting input within the US’s largest casino-entertainment lobbying group.

Exactly how that voting power shakes out remains to be seen. The AGA has been effectively neutered on online-gambling matters for all of this decade, largely at the behest of two of its largest donors, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Wynn Resorts, Ltd. The casino magnates behind those two companies — Sheldon Adelson at Las Vegas Sands and Steve Wynn at Wynn Resorts — applied considerable pressure to the AGA in recent years to keep the AGA from any sort of advocacy role regarding regulated online gambling in the US.

But yes, times do change. Wynn has been jettisoned from his commander’s chair in the wake of those sexual-allegation claims, which keep emerging decades after they were first rumored.

And Adelson, well, he’s still the US’s number-one anti-gambling bogeyman, but he remains mired in legal difficulties in several jurisdictions his company operates, and here in the States, the online-gambling thing continues to not go his way. Adelson had threatened to sell his Sands Bethlehem casino if Pennsylvania legalized online gambling. They did, he followed through and sold the casino, and well, no one’s likely going to miss him too much in the Keystone State.

Yet that pro-online pressure continues to build. GVC Holdings, Paddy Power Betfair and The Stars Group all have something in common. Each is a licensed software provider in New Jersey, where online gambling continues to post major gains. Getting the AGA off the online-gambling fence has to be a major part of why these companies joined the AGA; there’s just no other sense to it. “Online” isn’t mentioned anywhere in the AGA’s presser, but it’s there, in invisible ink and a 60-pt. font, nonetheless.

“More than ever before, AGA’s diverse membership reflects the broad interests of the casino gaming industry,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of AGA, in a statement announcing the addition of the six firms to the AGA’s ranks.

“Adding these six industry leaders,” added Freeman, “will help our ability to serve as an effective advocate for the industry as a whole, and we’re excited to add their expertise to our Board.”

We will see if these references to “broad interests” and “advocate for the industry as a whole” have any real weight, or if it’s just going to be another round of lip service. Perhaps another major fight over the AGA’s future is brewing — heck, there could have been one already — but the AGA continues to be an embarrassment in an era where online gambling is a profitable reality elsewhere around the globe.

GVC, Paddy Power Betfair, and The Stars Group have waiting allies within the AGA. The smart money says it’ll still take some time for the whole “AGA issue” to shake out, but these new corporate signees are a start. Let’s see where it goes.

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