Frank Fahrenkopf, American Gaming Association president and CEO.(Photo: Gannett/Reno Gazette Journal)
Frank Fahrenkopf, the nation's top gaming lobbyist, is calling it quits as head of the American Gaming Association.
73, a native of Reno, Nev., said Monday he plans to step down in June
as the first and only president/CEO of the association created in 1994
to squelch a proposed 4 percent gross receipts tax on casinos that would
have funded the Clinton administration's welfare reform legislation.
dropped it quickly," Fahrenkopf said of the impact of opposition from
the gaming industry as well as state governors, including then-Gov. Bob
Miller of Nevada.
But what was supposed to be a one-year stint at
the AGA helm turned long-term as the industry grew from 12 states and
revenues of $16 billion in 1995 to 23 states with $35.6 billion in
revenues last year, according to the association.
in the mid-'90s was far different than today. Tribal casinos had yet to
open. And few imagined, Fahrenkopf said, what the emerging Internet
would eventually mean to the industry.
And then there was gambling's image.
"Within one month of our opening, the movie Casino
came out and that didn't help get rid of old stereotypes," he said of
the movie's depiction of organized crime in the Las Vegas casino
"We're a mainstream part of the economy now, with
hundreds of thousands of people employed in casinos nationwide," he
said. "We do polls every year and it's pretty consistent: 15 percent of
people oppose all forms of gambling. You'll never change them and all we
can do is respect their views. But 80 percent believe gaming is all
right, and that's a very positive thing for our industry."
Word of Fahrenkopf's departure brought praise from industry leaders.
impact of his leadership stretches well beyond Washington," Jim Murren,
chairman/CEO of MGM Resorts International, said in a statement. "It
hasn't always been easy to bring our disparate group together, but he
did it. Frank's legacy at the AGA is testament to what we can accomplish
Fahrenkopf said the American Gaming Association has
grown from four employees to a staff of 12, and its role has expanded
from lobbying Congress and the federal government to operating the
National Center for Responsible Gaming and putting on the Global Gaming
Expo in Las Vegas, which attracts more than 30,000 people, and G2E Asia.
said he will remain with the AGA in a consulting role through 2013 to
help efforts to get federal legislation approved governing Internet
gambling between states.
Congress has failed in recent years to
address sanctions, notably on online poker - which is legal overseas and
generates as much as $6 billion annually, according to industry and
national media reports.
"We'll have to wait and see," Fahrenkopf
said of the new Congress that convenes this month. "Absent a federal
law, you'll see state-by-state intrastate Internet gaming."
was a Reno lawyer before working in Republican politics at the state
level and becoming chairman of the Republican National Committee, a
title he held for six of President Ronald Reagan's eight years in the
White House. He also helped lead the party through the 1984 and 1988
He continues to serve as co-chairman of
the Commission on Presidential Debates, which conducts the general
election presidential and vice presidential debates.
By Bill O’Driscoll, Reno Gazette Journal