American Gaming Association CEO Geoff Freeman Resigns

American Gaming Association CEO Geoff Freeman Announces Resignation

American Gaming Association (AGA) president and CEO Geoff Freeman has announced his resignation.

The American Gaming Association (AGA), the leading lobbying organization representing the United States’ casino-entertainment industry, is searching for a new head after the sudden resignation of its president and CEO, Geoff Freeman.

The AGA did not issue a press statement regarding Freeman’s sudden departure but instead sent an e-mail brief regarding Freeman’s exit to its member firms, which include dozens of US-based casino groups, game developers, and related service providers.

Freeman, 43, will serve in his current role at the AGA until August 1, ending his five-year run as the AGA’s head. A career lobbyist, Freeman was the chief operating officer at US Travel Association. Freeman took over the AGA’s helm in 2013 from Frank Fahrenkopf, the former head of the Republican National Committee. Fahrenkopf was the president and CEO of the AGA from its inception in 1995 until his retirement in 2013.

AGA board praises service

The letter to AGA member stakeholders praised Freeman’s efforts on behalf of the gambling industry, and in particular with regards to the AGA’s work in advancing sports betting’s legality across the US.

According to Tim Wilmott, CEO of Penn National Gaming Inc. and the chairman of AGA’s board, “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 said. “Geoff has built a strong board and a strong team. He leaves us well positioned for future success.”

While one could argue that the primary credit in New Jersey’s recent Supreme Court victory in the high-profile PASPA sports betting case rightly belongs to New Jersey’s legislators and legal counsel, Freeman and the AGA did play a supporting role, since legalized sports betting across the US was one of the issues upon which the AGA’s member companies shared common ground.

AGA faces fractious future

Without regard to how much credit the AGA should receive in the US’s sports-betting legalization battle, the AGA itself faces a difficult road ahead with the largest of all issues facing the American casino industry, the larger legalization of online gambling across the US. Freeman and the AGA were forced to the sidelines in recent years on the topic by a small group of powerful casino owners, most notably Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson and former Wynn Resorts Ltd. head Steve Wynn.

Adelson has spent tens of millions of dollars battling online gambling’s legalization on both the state and federal level in the US, in an attempt to limit any possible competition to his land-based megacasinos, the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas. Adelson’s LVSands has also been the largest single donor to the AGA’s lobbying coffers, and in 2014, Adelson, with Wynn’s support, threatened to stop funding the AGA if the group continued lobbying on online gambling’s legalization.

Adelson’s power play sidelined the AGA on the topic to the point that online gambling is not even mentioned amid the AGA’s research and initiatives in recent years, a situation that is likely to remain unchanged until Adelson’s lengthy run at LVSands itself comes to an end.

Yet that leaves the AGA with a big issue to tackle… and no way to address it. That, in turn, might contribute to why Freeman chose this time to leave the AGA, with the sports-betting war freshly won. Freeman is leaving the gambling industry in its entirety, moving on to a similar role with the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association.