Six major issues appear in last week’s American Gaming Association (AGA) letter to Congress outlining asks for the current session.
The missing issue, however, happens to be the one dominating talk within the industry represented by the AGA.
A letter titled “Casino Gaming Industry Priorities in 2019 and Beyond” might be expected to cover that topic. Instead, the document outlines these six priorities:
- Sports Betting
- Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Compliance
- Gaming Tax Policy
- Travel and Tourism
- Yucca Mountain
Wire we not talking about the Wire Act memo?
A discussion of legal issues confronting the gaming industry feels incomplete without the Wire Act memo. The AGA did issue a relatively tepid statement four days after the release of the memo, calling the decision “unfortunate.”
It is unfortunate that the Department of Justice departed from well-established practice in reversing its previous opinion without a compelling reason to do so.
However, the 2018 OLC opinion does not impact the ability for states and Tribes to legalize and regulate gaming on a state-by-state and tribal basis, or for companies to provide the exciting products and entertainment experiences our customers want.
Last week’s letter omits the Wire Act memo entirely, at a time when the industry wants clarity on its scope and DOJ plans for enforcement. Concerns include the future of online lotteries, online poker, daily fantasy sports, and potentially sports betting.
Pay no attention …
Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and The Intercept pin the new Wire Act memo on anti-online gaming casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Yet a source close to the AGA insist the reserved statement and letter exclusion do not tie exclusively back to Adelson despite the clear ties between him and the content of the memo.
Another source with knowledge of the group’s thinking said because AGA lacks consensus among membership, it chooses to stay neutral. Some fear of spooking the market with a forceful reaction exists within the AGA, although many of its members operate online gaming platforms that stand to lose millions if the new DOJ interpretation is enforced strictly.
An AGA spokesperson declined to comment on the decision to exclude the Wire Act memo.
Sports betting receives top billing
The AGA letter lists sports betting first among its priorities for the current session. With federal sports betting legislation readied late last year by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Orrin Hatch, that certainly makes sense.
The letter spends nearly a full page on legal sports betting, including this succinct summary:
AGA firmly believes additional federal regulatory oversight of legal sports betting is unwarranted at this time given the more than 4,000 dedicated public servants who already effectively regulate the commercial and tribal casino industry, including sports wagering.
The AGA instead asked Congress to direct federal resources to battling the illegal betting market. The advocacy group also reiterated its long-held position in favor of state-based gaming regulation:
States and sovereign tribal nations now have the opportunity to set their own policies to legalize and regulate sports betting in an effective manner that protects consumers and create tax benefits for local communities.
Summing up the remaining asks
Nothing jumps out as surprising among the other priorities outlined by the AGA. A brief summary of each follows …
A great deal of technical information boils down to a fairly standard business-trade request to remove “unnecessary industry burden.” The AGA seeks greater streamlining and synchronization of compliance and reporting requirements.
Gaming Tax Policy
Four specific requests appear in this section:
- Preservation of interest deductions for businesses
- Permanent R+D tax credits for equipment manufacturers and suppliers
- Raising of slot jackpot reporting threshold from $1,200 to $5,000
- Ability to net gaming losses and winnings for the purpose of determining tax liability
The letter calls for “reasonable” policy as it recognizes a diverse population of gaming employees. The AGA wants such policy to support industry programs in citizenship assistance, continuing education and language workshops.
Travel and Tourism
The international market represents a significant chunk of annual Las Vegas visitation. Policy requests to reflect and enhance that include:
- Robust and secure Visa Waiver Program
- Reauthorization of Brand USA
- Ensuring Las Vegas receives significant security funding through DHS’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI)
This is a pet issue for Las Vegas that resonates within the gaming industry. Yucca Mountain would become the national dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste.
The proposed nuclear waste storage repository sits only 90 miles from Las Vegas. A decades-long battle pits Nevada‘s Congressional delegation against the House, Senate and federal government.
As expected, the AGA strongly opposes Yucca Mountain.February 2019 AGA Letter To Congress