As the 2016 election cycle gears up, gambling leaders recently gathered in the key state of Iowa to discuss the American Gaming Association’s “Gaming Votes” initiative. AGA President and Chief Executive Officer Geoff Freeman said the goal is to make sure presidential candidates will recognize the positive economic impact of the nation’s 0 billion gaming industry. The group also wants casino employees to consider candidates who support policies favoring the commercial gambling industry.
Freeman pointed out the gaming industry provides more than 1.7 million jobs in 40 states and has significantly benefited Iowa. “As far as the country goes, nearly $250 billion of economic impact and $2.5 billion of that is right here in Iowa along with 17,000 jobs. This is an industry that is making a significant difference around the country, but most importantly, it’s making a huge difference right here in Iowa. The gaming industry has been here 25 years at this point and it has certainly exceeded any expectations that people may have had,” Freeman said.
Freeman noted presidential candidates need to have a realistic understanding of the gaming industry. “This isn’t your grandfather’s casino industry. There are nearly 1,000 casinos across the United States. But we still find perceptions out there as to what gaming is, or what it may be. These are mainstream businesses today that are providing important jobs, diverse types of jobs, and employing a disproportionate number of minorities and women. This is an industry that is doing the right thing by Iowa and it’s important that the presidential candidates understand that,” he stated.
Freeman cited a recent AGA poll of 400 likely caucus participants, both Democrats and Republicans, which found 55.7 percent said Iowa’s casino industry has been positive, while 28.4 percent said it has had a negative impact on Iowa.
Other panelists at the Council Bluffs event included Mayor Matt Walsh, HGM Associates President Ron Tekippe, Ameristar Casino Marketing Manager Kelley Kulesa, Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce President Bob Mundt and Iowa 3rd District Congressman David Young.
Besides Iowa, Larry Sabato, a political scientist and prominent election forecaster at the University of Virginia, said Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio and Nevada—and New Hampshire, which probably will allow casinos, soon—are swing states that offer gaming. They control 72 electoral votes, so presidential candidates are likely to spend a lot of time in each. Also, Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida and Nevada are among the first states to hold primary elections.