Will the Gaming Votes Initiative be a Game Changer?

Posted by: on Dec 5, 2015 | No Comments

Americans will elect their 45th President on November 8, 2016. Other than the fact that a casino magnate is the early Republican frontrunner in the polls, there has been another unique feature of this election, in favour of the gaming industry. The American Gaming Association (AGA) has sent a ten-page questionnaire to each of the candidates, asking them for their stance on the $240 billion gaming industry. The answers will be formulated into a voter’s guide and distributed to the one million people employed by the sector; and could, therefore, be a crucial determining factor. This is a first of its kind effort to ensure that casino-related issues are accounted for in the manifestos.

Will it Really Have an Impact on Votes?

The one million employees of the casino industry are located across 40 states of the country. Of these, more than half a million are based out of key presidential states like Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Therefore, the ‘gaming votes’ account for a large section and could indeed be a game changer.

Moreover, the questionnaire was sent across two weeks before the nationally televised GOP candidate debate held at The Venetian, the Italian themed casino hotel in Las Vegas, held on December 15. The last date for submission of answers to the Director of Public Affairs was set at December 18, so the debate was scheduled at a crucial juncture. However, the discussion about casino regulations at the debate was limited to 1998, and whether Donald Trump lobbied for change in gambling laws in Florida while Jeb Bush was in office. The gaming voters will not be disappointed this time, as the answers from the questionnaire will be circulated by the AGA before the voting begins in Iowa caucuses on February 1.

What were Some of the Questions Asked?

Geoff Freeman, the CEO of AGA stated, “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.” This largely reflects the vantage point from which the questionnaire was devised. Freeman was quoting an Oxford Economics study, also cited in the questionnaire about the career opportunities that the casino industry offers in over 200 job classifications.

The questionnaire also delved into topics like daily fantasy sports, illegal gambling, regulation, tourism and proposed Internal Revenue Service changes on tracking the activities of casino customers. A significant area that it addressed, which many of the voters should be interested to know the answers in, was immigration. While the casino industry already offers citizenship assistance, continuing education and language workshops under the bipartisan immigration legislation that passed the US Senate in 2013, it would be interesting to note how the candidates would seek to extend support to the many immigrants that work in the industry.

What are the Candidates Likely to Say?

The AGA has also launched a ‘Get to Know Gaming’ Campaign to educate policymakers about the casino industry. The fact that it is a $240 billion industry that supports 1.7 million jobs and generated $38 billion in tax revenue across 40 states is reason enough for Presidential candidates to take it seriously and ensure that they are able to utilize the full potential of the industry.

Many of the Republican candidates are already well versed with the industry and are therefore expected to be more sympathetic to its concerns. Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida have both supported the Adelson bill to ban internet gaming. Governor George Pataki was also part of a coalition working for the same cause.

On the other hand, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and George Kasich of Ohio have the benefit of experience in handling two of the largest gaming states. It goes without saying that Donald Trump, though having eschewed his ties with the industry at the moment, is more than familiar with its workings. On the Democrat side, former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland has been known to encourage expansion of gaming during his term in the office.

Therefore, it would seem that the gaming votes are likely to be drawn in to the Republican side, although it remains to be seen, in favour of which candidate.

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