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Published on January 7th, 2014 | by Steve Gardman

American Gaming Association Strengthens Its Pro-Online Lobbying Agenda

In a bid to prepare for tough lobbying in Congress to push for legalization of online gambling, the American Gaming Association (AGA) recently brought five seasoned veterans into its fold. The new players are set to lobby Congress hard and set the mood in Washington, D.C. for a more liberal policy.

The AGA is the casino industry’s most prominent association and major proponent for online gaming in the US. By bringing in senior staff to represent their case with lawmakers, the association seeks to continue to pursue Congress to legalize online gambling and realize its mistake in not bringing favorable legislations earlier.

According to the American Gaming Association (AGA), the new staff members will focus on revamping the group’s marketing strategies and clarify their policy functions. Most members of the AGA are in favor of a liberal policy and either endorse or have chosen a wait-and-watch approach to the legalization of online gaming. One of the prominent opponents and long-time member of the AGA is Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation. The CEO has reportedly invested millions in anti-online gambling campaigns and built his own army of lobbyists.

AGA president Geoff Freeman hinted at a strong pro-online lobbying agenda through its new group of experts to champion the cause for online gaming. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have
already proved a point and California is likely to be next. If the latter state legalizes online poker, it is likely to overtake New Jersey due to its larger number of potential players. According to Freeman, the new members have a wealth of experience in the gaming industry in the private sector as well as with other trade associations. This gives them an advantage in their role as lobbyists.

The new members include Allie Barth, former senior director of communications for the U.S. Travel Association; Elizabeth Cronan, former director of gaming policy at International Gaming Technology (IGT), and Virginia Hurt Johnson who has three decades of experience in the private and public sectors. Another prominent figure on the AGA staff is Sara Rayme, a former vice president of public affairs who played a major role in MGM Resorts’ move into the Maryland land-based casino market. Wrapping up the quintet is Chaka Burgess, a former vice president of government relations with 20 years coalition building and ally development experience. Industry giants Frank Fertitta III of Stations Casinos and Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts Ltd. will be on the Board of Directors.

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