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American Gaming Association selects new president

18 April 2013

The American Gaming Association (AGA) on Wednesday named just its second president to lead the nearly 20-year-old Washington, D.C.-based organization that serves as the industry’s voice on Capitol Hill.

Geoff Freeman, 38, who has 16 years of association leadership and public affairs experience, including the past seven years with the U.S. Travel Association, takes over the American Gaming Association as president and chief executive officer July 1.

The association’s board of directors, which includes representatives from the major casino operators and slot machine manufacturers, unanimously selected Freeman at a meeting in Las Vegas on Wednesday morning after a nearly four-month national search.

“Every industry has its challenges,” Freeman said in an interview Wednesday. “And all industries want the same thing, such as policies that are consistent with growth. As gaming grows around the globe, I look forward to strengthening our partnership with other aspects of the travel community.”

During his tenure with U.S. Travel, Freeman helped the organization navigate issue campaigns and reposition the industry. Freeman, whose most recent title was chief operating officer — the organization’s No. 2 position — said passage of the Travel Promotion Act helped destinations such as Las Vegas increase travel to and within the United States.

During his tenure, U.S. Travel nearly doubled its resources. The association expanded its activities to include reducing visa wait times for international travelers, reforming the Transportation Security Administration and improving the U.S. travel infrastructure.

“Like the travel industry, gaming is a complex industry,” Freeman said.

The American Gaming Association was founded in 1995, and Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., 73, a Reno native and former Republican National Committee chairman, has been its only leader. His resignation takes effect June 30.

In a statement, Fahrenkopf said he will work closely with Freeman to ensure a smooth transition.

“He already has a strong familiarity with our industry and the issues we face,” Fahrenkopf said. “I’m confident that Geoff, along with the outstanding staff he inherits, will be successful in building upon the tremendous accomplishments of the AGA over the past 18 years.”

Freeman was selected after a search that was conducted by members of the American Gaming Association board and led by executive search firm Korn/Ferry International. The firm identified four finalists, and the search committee — Caesars Entertainment Corp. Chairman Gary Loveman, MGM Resorts International Chairman Jim Murren, Isle of Capri CEO Virginia McDowell and Ameristar Casinos CEO Gordon Kanofsky — interviewed the candidates.

“We’re pleased because we found somebody who understands coalitions, grass-roots campaigns and social media, and who also has an extensive network of relationships in Washington,” said Bally Technologies Chairman Richard Haddrill, who is chairman of the American Gaming Association board.

Murren, who is the association’s vice chairman, said gaming experience wasn’t paramount to the position. However, Freeman has worked with casino company executives over the years in his role with the travel industry.

“We all felt very strongly that Geoff was the right person for the position,” Murren said.

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Rossi Ralenkotter is completing a two-year term as the chairman of the U.S. Travel Association’s board of directors and has worked closely with Freeman.

Ralenkotter said Wednesday that Freeman’s ability to build consensus and identify issues will serve both him and the gaming industry as he moves into his new position.

“Geoff is one of the up-and-coming leaders in policy development and strategy,” Ralenkotter said.

Freeman, a University of California, Berkeley graduate, lives in Arlington, Va., with his wife, Tita Thompson Freeman, and their two children.

The American Gaming Association represents members on issues such as online poker, travel promotion and off-reservation gaming. It also operates AGA PAC, a political action committee supporting elected officials who can protect the gaming industry’s interests, according to the group’s website.

The 16-member board includes Loveman, Murren, Haddrill, McDowell, Pinnacle Entertainment CEO Anthony Sanfilippo and Las Vegas Sands Corp. President Michael Leven.