American Gaming Association Announces Significant Hires

In a change in direction for the industry’s major trade group, the American Gaming Association announced five new hires that will transform the organization to be more pro-active and advocate forcefully for industry positions, particularly in the iGaming arena. In addition, the AGA hired as a consultant former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina (l.).

American Gaming Association Announces Significant Hires

The American Gaming Association (AGA) last week announced five significant staff additions, providing a jolt of industry experience and political savvy. The new staff members are part of a reorganization placing an emphasis on proactive, campaign-style trade association advocacy.

“These extremely talented new members of our team will help us build off the success the AGA has enjoyed and pivot to our next generation organization,” said AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman. “Through groundbreaking research, aggressive outreach and on-the-ground activities, this group of experts, coupled with our existing team, will position the AGA to champion gaming’s value as a driver of innovation and economic growth. I am extremely excited about our burgeoning team—those who have been with the AGA and the critical additions we announce today.”

The five new staff members bring diverse backgrounds, including a combination of industry expertise, public-sector acumen and association experience:

• Sara Rayme, senior vice president of public affairs. Rayme previously worked with MGM Resorts International, becoming a vice president of government affairs and leading the Maryland lobbying and referendum campaign for casino expansion. She will oversee all the AGA communications, research and campaign-style initiatives.

• Chaka Burgess, vice president of government relations. Burgess brings nearly 20 years of experience in coalition building, lobbying and ally development. He formerly worked as director in the global government affairs division of Amgen Inc., a major biopharmaceutical company, where he built and implemented advocacy and outreach programs. Burgess joins Whitaker Askew, vice president of government affairs, and the two will work closely with Rayme to lead the AGA’s advocacy efforts.

• Allie Barth, senior director of communications. Barth joins the AGA from the U.S. Travel Association, where she developed and managed the organization’s internal and external communications and implemented strategic campaign initiatives. She will execute the AGA’s communications platform.

• Elizabeth Cronan, director of gaming policy. Cronan previously worked as director of global government relations and public affairs at International Game Technology (IGT), head of the U.S. legal and research division for Gambling Compliance, and advisor to the board of GeoComply, a geolocation company actively engaged in online gaming expansion. She will lead the AGA’s public policy activities, including regulatory reform and anti-money laundering initiatives.

• Virginia Hurt Johnson, general counsel. Johnson brings 30 years of experience in the private and public sectors and has extensive knowledge of the executive and legislative branches. As part-time general counsel, Johnson will address the AGA’s day-to-day legal needs, manage outside counsel and guide the organization as it attracts new members and opportunities.

The AGA also is conducting a search for an executive vice president to oversee membership services and operations. More information may be found online at

In addition, the Washington D.C. publication, The Hill, reported that the AGA had hired Jim Messina, Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2012, to help develop proactive campaigns.

“We have hired Messina to work on grassroots initiatives. Online gaming is one of those. Jim is as politically astute as they come and he will be a great resource for us,” Freeman said.

Another group, Purple Strategies, is lending John Murray, a former deputy chief of staff for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), to the AGA. Askew, the AGA’s vice president of government affairs, is a former staffer for House Speaker John Boehner. And yet another consulting agency, High Lantern Group, has been retained by the AGA.