Freeman to Depart Role as AGA President and CEO
American Gaming association (AGA) President and CEO Geoff Freeman has announced his upcoming resignation from his role as the head of the US casino industry’s most prominent lobbying arm. Freeman’s decision, announced earlier this week, will end his five-year run at the AGA’s helm, though he’ll remain with the lobbying group through the end of July as the AGA searches for a successor.
The 43-year-old career lobbyist will be moving on to a possibly less contentious role, accepting a similar President/CEO role with the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association. Meanwhile, the AGA will be looking for only the third CEO in the group’s history. In 2013, Freeman replaced Frank Fahrenkopf, the former Republican National Committee chairman who became the AGA’s first CEO when the AGA was established in 1995.
News of Freeman’s upcoming departure wasn’t announced on the AGA’s website, but was instead distributed to the AGA’s corporate membership in a letter authored by Tim Wilmott, the CEO of Penn National Gaming Inc. and the chairman of the AGA’s board.
According to Wilmott’s statement “The AGA accomplished many important successes during Geoff’s tenure, most notably the recent Supreme Court ruling declaring the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act unconstitutional, a decision that paves the way for legalized sports betting in the U.S.”
“It is a testament to our industry, as well as to Geoff himself, that GMA would look to gaming as a model for managing through dynamic change and complexity to achieve success in both policy and perceptions,” Wilmott added. “Geoff has built a strong board and a strong team. He leaves us well positioned for future success.”
Freeman did indeed steer the AGA and its member casino-entertainment companies toward sports-betting legalization, even if it’s a stretch to say that the AGA accomplished the success of the recent Supreme Court ruling that ended the US’s nationwide PASPA ban on such wagering. That was New Jersey’s battle, with the AGA assisting, as per the wishes of a majority of its member groups. That’s still much more than what would have been accomplished with Fahrenkopf, who had close ties to the NFL and its decades of anti-sports betting efforts.
Yet sports betting represented a battle where the AGA was largely unified, unlike the other 900-lb. gorilla in the virtual room, online gambling. The AGA was effectively neutered on the topic of online gambling several years ago by the lobbying group’s single largest benefactor, Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp., which has opposed online-gambling legalization efforts.
The AGA has been so hamstrung on the topic, with Adelson and a couple of other prominent AGA member companies threatening to leave the AGA and pull their financial support, that discussion of “online” or “internet” based gambling questions isn’t even present in the AGA’s recent-years research.
With the sports-betting battle now successfully concluded, the next logical lobbying target is overall online-gambling expansion across the US. Except, thanks to Adelson, the AGA can’t. That might be at least a small part of why the astute Freeman chose this moment to sally off to greener pastures… err, grocery shelves.