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Howard Stutz

Gaming group: Rank Las Vegas higher for security funding

24 March 2015

LAS VEGAS -- The American Gaming Association (AGA) wants the Homeland Security Department to rank Las Vegas higher for the city — primarily the Strip — to better fund programs that protects the state’s $53 billion a year casino industry.

During a Monday telephonic news conference, in which the Washington-based trade organization announced new members, association CEO Geoff Freeman said Homeland Security has not ranked gaming as a priority industry.

“Las Vegas is a potential threat (target) and we have had productive conversations with the Nevada (congressional) delegation to ensure the unique characteristics of Las Vegas, and gaming in general, are taken into consideration,” Freeman said.

Earlier this month, Freeman thanked the Nevada delegation for its efforts and asked that it continue to ensure that Las Vegas remains a priority for Homeland Security. He said Las Vegas’s “iconic distinction” has elevated the city’s need to be funded through the department’s Urban Areas Security Initiative.

“It is essential that the agency consider Las Vegas’s unique characteristics and ranks the city in its top tier for fiscal year 2015,” Freeman said.

The American Gaming Association announced 11 new members, which included five new board members — The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Global Cash Access, Cordish Cos., Novomatic Group and Vantiv Gaming.

Ho-Chunk Gaming of Wisconsin became the association’s second tribal gaming member.

“The budding coalescence of the gaming industry and wave of interest in the AGA strengthens our ability to share gaming’s story and effectively advocate in Washington, state capitals and developing gaming markets around the globe,” Freeman said.

In January, Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment became the group’s first American Indian-owned casino company member. The Seminole tribe, which operates seven casinos in Florida, was included among nine new members that month along with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Freeman said Monday that the association would monitor Wednesday’s congressional hearing on a bill that would reimpose a federal ban on wagering over the Internet, but the organization is not taking a position on the measure introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

“Our only concern is that long-standing critics of gaming are using tired arguments that continue to offer misinformation,” Freeman said. “We want to make sure that any legislation doesn’t affect bricks-and-mortar operations.”

Freeman said the association has seen a “good response” from the casino industry in opposition to the Internal Revenue Service’s suggested to change that would lower reporting rules for casino customers.

The casino industry had 90 days to respond to the proposed changes that would reduce the reporting trigger from $1,200 to $600 on jackpots for slot machines, keno and table games.

Freeman said the idea “seemed to come a bit out of left field” and may be part of a search in Washington “for new revenue through creative thinking.”

He said association representatives have had conversations with IRS officials about the proposal, which he called “complex,” and the burden it would place on casino operators.

Freeman said the reporting threshold hadn’t been looked at since “Jimmy Carter was president and ‘Saturday Night Fever’ was on the screen.” The association believes lowering the reporting figure is a mistake.

“If anything, if the figure were priced with inflation, it would be closer to $4,600,” Freeman said. “The industry is aligned on this.”
Gaming group: Rank Las Vegas higher for security funding is republished from