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The gaming industry wants to make eliminating illegal gambling a top priority. But, the industry's top lobbyist realizes there is “no silver bullet that will rid the country” of everything from illegal sports betting to black market slot machines.

“There are nearly 1,000 casinos in 40 states at this point,” Geoff Freeman, president of the American Gaming Association, told KNPR’s State of Nevada on Friday. “The industry is certainly making its mark in America. Unfortunately, the illegal gambling industry, we estimate, is even greater than the legal gambling industry.”

Freeman told KNPR illegal gambling generates in excess of $500 billion annually. He said it’s going to take a “very creative partnership” between the industry and law enforcement to deal with these issues.

“This isn’t a victimless crime,” Freeman said. “There is a real threat here.”

He called out Texas as an example of a state were gambling is illegal, but “you’ve got 150,000 black market slot machines driving nearly $2 billion in revenue.” Freeman said the black market machines in Texas “shows the magnitude of the problem.”

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So, what is the American Gaming Association proposing to do to combat illegal gambling? Freeman told KNPR the industry trade group has launched “Stop Illegal Gambling – Play it Safe,” an initiative to work with law enforcement to crack down in illegal gambling operations.

Freeman, who first announced the initiative at a summit of state attorneys general in Biloxi, Miss., urged law enforcement to start with the “low hanging fruit” first. He said Texas, with its illegal slot machines, is a perfect example of a problem that can be solved.

“The illegal gambling industry is fueling criminal networks and large criminal enterprises that profoundly harm your state, your school, your consumers, and your law enforcement,” Freeman told the National Association of Attorneys General.

Freeman represents legal casino gambling, including Wynn Resorts Ltd., Las Vegas Sands Corp., and many others. He reminded law enforcement officials that casinos and suppliers are “some of the most heavily regulated companies” in the country, which offer “a compelling product that Americans are embracing in record numbers.”

Freeman touched on five areas through which the industry’s trade group will target illegal gaming. He said the AGA will “dig into the roots of this problem” by developing “Actionable intelligence.”

The initiative will also create a “central repository for illegal gambling resources,” with resources and information about illegal gambling, establish an advisory board, and lobby lawmakers to committee the resources to deal with illegal gambling. He said the AGA will partner with law enforcement.

“That’s why we have been meeting with (Mississippi Attorney) General Jim Hood about creating a possible NAAG Committee on illegal gambling,” Freeman said. “The public need to be warned about illegal gambling. They need to be protected and illegal operations need to be shut down.”

Freeman told law enforcement officials that he has often heard illegal gambling compared to a speeding ticket, or even a victimless crime.

“Well tell that to the resident … who had his savings taken by an illegal gambling operation,” he said.

Freeman’s speech was part of the AGA’s efforts to improve the image of gaming as a well regulated industry that employs almost two million people, and pays $38 billion in taxes.

Last year, the industry trade group launched its “Get to Know Gaming” campaign to promote the value of the industry. The U.S. gaming industry is a $240 billion business, according to the AGA.

In February, the AGA stepped off the sidelines with its political initiative called “Gaming Votes.” Freeman said the campaign will education the industry’s workforce so they can inform the candidates about the role gaming plays as a job creator and tax base for communities nationwide.

“We are a national industry,” Freeman told KNPR’s State of Nevada on Feb. 18. “It’s time we engage these candidates. We want to get these candidates to think about gaming and the important role we play in putting people to work.”

Guests

Geoff Freeman, president, American Gaming Association

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