Neutered AGA Publishes Internet-Free Presidential Candidate Gaming Questionnaire

The American Gaming Association, the powerful trade and lobbying group which represents the US’s $240 billion casino-entertainment industry, today published the text of a questionnaire that the group plans to send to all remaining US presidential candidates.  The AGA’s stated purpose for the questionnaire is to sound out the various presidential candidates on various gaming-related issues, though the questionnaire itself rings hollow in many regards, including its utter avoidance of the words “Internet” or “online” or discussion of any issues related to online gambling, one of the most important of all gaming topics facing the US today.

AGA LogoThe well-intentioned (but unintentionally hilarious) questionnaire, reproduced below, is the logical output from a group whose primary members remain locked in a fierce struggle over the “online” issue.  The AGA has been effectively muzzled for roughly two years, since Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson and Wynn Gaming boss Steve Wynn threatened to drop their financial support or leave the trade group entirely if the AGA continued to advocate for online-gaming regulation in the US.  Most other AGA member countries favor US regulation and legalization of the online sector, but the threat of the loss of major financing has neutered the AGA.

Today’s AGA-produced questionnaire is the result of that neutering, a work which pretends to be all about gaming issues but instead is forced to focus on only some of the topics the gaming world currently faces.  The publication of the planned questionnaire comes two weeks before a planned Republican presidential debate at Adelson’s Venetian casino on December 15th, but candidates are asked to respond by December 18th, meaning their responses likely won’t be available for that debate.

Even question #8 (below), which attempts to make the candidates speak out against “illegal” forms of gambling, studiously omits any mention of the Internet, whether or not some elements of online gambling might be included in the activity the AGA deems illegal.

The upcoming fifth GOP debate ater this month, informally the focal point of the so-called “Adelson Primary,” is expected to be more pointed on the issue.  The debate may even find several of the GOP candidates kowtowing to Adelson’s anti-online gambling whims in a blatant effort to secure millions of dollars in Adelson’s dark-money donations.

As for the AGA questionaire, it was sent out from the AGA offices with the promise that the candidates’ viewpoints shared will be used to help shape a voter guide that the AGA plans to distribute to approximately one million land-based casino workers in 40 US states.  The million targeted voters are the employees of the AGA-member corporations.  The AGA has not announced whether it plans to reveal individual response to any answered questionnaires the group receives.  The questionnaire will be sent to both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.

“Before casting their vote, gaming employees need to know where candidates stand on their industry and the most important issues we face,” said AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman. “While candidates have no shortage of issues to consider and debate, we encourage candidates to take the time to demonstrate their support — through this questionnaire, a back-of-the-house tour and in other ways — for an industry that is creating a path to the middle class for workers of all backgrounds and experiences.”

“Your answers will play an important role in shaping a voter guide that we will distribute to nearly one million gaming employees across 40 states,” added Freeman in a letter accompanying the questionnaire.  “Many of those employees – more than half-a-million, in fact – work and live in key presidential states, such as Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and others. Through the gaming industry’s first-ever Gaming Votes initiative, we’re ensuring that our employees are as informed as possible about you and the entire field of candidates running for president.”

And without further ado, the AGA’s whitewashed questionnaire, utterly devoid of the words “Internet” or “online,” even though it does delve into such other trendy topics as daily fantasy sports [DFS]:

1. Casino gaming is one of the most highly regulated industries in the country. Like businesses in any other industry, casino gaming operators and suppliers require regulatory flexibility to innovate and evolve. How do you balance the often conflicting needs for regulation and innovation?
________________________________________________________________

 

2. In key early voting and battleground states – including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and others – casino gaming supports more than half-a-million jobs and contributes $75 billion to local communities. In an upcoming campaign visit, would you be willing to meet with gaming employees – voters – to gain a better understand of today’s casino gaming industry?
❏ Yes ❏ No
Any further comments?
________________________________________________________________

 

3. A report released this year by Oxford Economics shows that casino gaming is providing a path to the middle class for workers of all backgrounds and experiences. Further, the report found that gaming offers a wealth of career opportunities in more than 200 job classifications, including high-tech, engineering, software development and law enforcement. How do you plan to demonstrate your support for an industry that is supporting nearly one million U.S. workers?
________________________________________________________________

 

4. Gaming boasts one of the most diverse workforces in the country, and it relies on the hard work of many employees who are new to the United States. Casino gaming companies provide robust benefits programs that include citizenship assistance, continuing education and language workshops. Which actions would you take to support the many immigrants who work in our industry? For background, the gaming industry, as part of a broad coalition of business groups, supported the bipartisan immigration legislation that passed the U.S. Senate in 2013.
________________________________________________________________

 

5. The IRS has proposed mandatory electronic tracking regulations for casino customers that would monitor their gaming activity at a casino. Do you support such a regulation?
❏ Yes ❏ No
Any further comments?
________________________________________________________________

 

6. Daily fantasy sports is an exciting new product that taps into the American appetite for sports and being invested in the performances and outcomes of our favorite athletes and teams.  State-by-state legal clarity and consumer protections are necessary prerequisites for daily fantasy’s success and future collaborations between our industries. How would you encourage the growth of innovative new companies like daily fantasy sports companies?
________________________________________________________________

 

7. Research conducted by the bipartisan team of renowned political pollsters Mark Mellman and
Glen Bolger found that voters across the country view casino gaming more favorably than ever
before. In Iowa, separate research unveiled that likely Iowa caucus-goers – including those
who identify as very conservative or very liberal – are more likely to support a candidate who
recognizes that casinos create jobs, generate valuable tax revenue and serve an important role
in economic development. Do you agree with voters that casino gaming is a positive force for
economic development and job creation?
❏ Yes ❏ No
Any further comments?
________________________________________________________________

 

8. Illegal gambling is recognized by law enforcement at every level as a serious threat to public safety, to state budgets and to consumers – and anything but a victimless crime. A recent report by Virginia Commonwealth University found strong ties between illegal gambling and organized crime rings that rely on illegal gambling to fund violent crimes and drug and human trafficking. Over the past year, AGA has built strong ties with the FBI, state attorneys general, district attorneys and other law enforcement officials to combat these operations. As president, what steps would you take to combat the multi-billion-dollar illegal gambling sector?
________________________________________________________________

 

9. The casino gaming industry is part of the broader tourism industry that relies on visitors from across the country and around the world. How have you, in your current or previous capacity, encouraged international travel to the United States, and what would you do as president to attract more visitors to the United States?
________________________________________________________________

 

10. The American Gaming Association (AGA) last year launched the “Get to Know Gaming” campaign to educate policymakers about the $240 billion casino gaming industry that supports 1.7 million jobs and generates $38 billion in tax revenue across 40 states. What’s one thing you would like to know more about regarding the casino gaming industry?
________________________________________________________________

 

11. As part of an initiative called Gaming Votes, AGA is hosting roundtable discussions in key presidential states with local, state and federal elected officials, as well as with gaming employees, small business owners and other community leaders. U.S. senators and House members, both Republican and Democrat, have proudly showed their support at a series of events at casinos, high-tech gaming labs and manufacturing facilities. Would you like to participate in a roundtable event in the near future to highlight your support for gaming jobs?
❏ Yes ❏ No
Any further comments?
_________________________________________________________________
12. Is there anything you would like to add?
_________________________________________________________________

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