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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Lanni Ready for Legislative Fights as AGA Chief

6 January 2005

LAS VEGAS -- The American Gaming Association is starting the new year in its usual defensive position, hoping to fend off federal legislation that could hurt the casino industry or restrict growth, a top gaming executive said Wednesday.

"We need to be on the alert," said Terry Lanni, board chairman of the American Gaming Association and chairman and chief executive of MGM Mirage. "There are people in Washington who might not like us to continue doing business. We are merely sensitive to the fact that gaming is a state's rights issue and that the federal government should leave it to the states to determine whether gaming should exist."

Lanni, a board member since 1996, was elected chairman of the association this week. He succeeds former Harrah's Chairman and Chief Executive Phil Satre.

The appointment comes as MGM Mirage stands on the verge of consummating its pending $7.9 billion merger with Mandalay Resort Group to create the largest casino presence on the Las Vegas Strip.

With the merger, Mandalay Resort Group, which isn't a member of the association, will join the ranks of the largest U.S. casino companies already represented by the group.

The association doesn't promote legislation, Lanni said.

"When you're in a position of not wanting legislation passed and having to oppose legislation, we can't set that agenda," Lanni said.

The American Gaming Association has a "superb track record" in keeping federal regulation at bay, especially with regard to fighting the proposed ban on college sports betting sponsored by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, he said.

"We couldn't be better served," Lanni said.

"We are prepared to gear up if (the sports betting ban) were proposed again," he said. "We have to wait and see."

Lanni said the association has successfully struck a "careful balance" by helping state-based casino lobbying groups without stepping on their toes. In recent years, Fahrenkopf has worked with state casino associations to testify before state legislatures considering legalizing casinos but only if he is invited by lawmakers. The association doesn't advocate for any single casino company, which may be competing with other members nationwide for business.