News

Gambling News

Freeman to Step Down as AGA President and CEO

Only one month removed from his greatest achievement as leader of the American Gaming Association (AGA), president and chief executive Geoff Freeman will step down in late July.

The 43-year old lobbyist has headed the AGA since 2013, lobbying on behalf of the casino gaming sector, representing industry stakeholders, and pushing for state and federal legalization of online gambling. In May,  Freeman and the AGA celebrated the completion of a long-held priority, as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 26-year old federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada.

But with that objective out of the way, Freeman has decided to part ways with the AGA to take on the role of president and chief executive officer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).

Freeman will assume that post effective August 1, and according to an AGA statement, he’ll stay on to assist the Board of Directors with its succession planning.

While Freeman himself has yet to offer public comment on the move, Tim Wilmott – who serves as chief executive officer of Penn National Gaming and chairman of the AGA’s Board of Directors – issued the following statement via email:

“The AGA accomplished many important successes during Geoff’s tenure, most notably the recent Supreme Court ruling declaring the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act unconstitutional, a decision that paves the way for legalized sports betting in the U.S.

“It is a testament to our industry, as well as to Geoff himself, that GMA would look to gaming as a model for managing through dynamic change and complexity to achieve success in both policy and perceptions.

Geoff has built a strong board and a strong team. He leaves us well positioned for future success.”

In his capacity representing the American casino industry – which the AGA values at $261 billion – Freeman worked on a diverse range of topics over the last five years.

He was a leading voice in battling back against Las Vegas Sands casino mogul and multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson, who funded repeated Congressional effort to pass the Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA), a bill which sought to ban online gaming.

Freeman has also been active in the wake of a Supreme Court decision which fundamentally reshaped the American gaming landscape. When the Court rescinded the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 in May, the decision freed individual states to pass their own sports betting laws.

Predictably, opponents of expanded sports betting are already lobbying Congress to pass a “federal framework,” one which would strip states of that newly earned right.

On May 22, Freeman sent an open letter to members of Congress on Capitol Hill, lobbying to preserve states’ rights when it comes to sports betting:

“States have proven to be effective gaming regulators in the 26 years since Congress passed PASPA.

As Congress has refrained from regulating lotteries, slot machines, table games and other gambling products, it should similarly refrain from engaging on sports wagering barring an identifiable problem that warrants federal attention.”

When the AGA was established in 1995, former Republican National Committee chairman Frank Fahrenkopf was installed as the organization’s first chief executive. He held the post until passing the baton to Freeman in 2013, meaning the AGA will be seeking just its third leader in its 23-year history.

Although he’ll be swapping gambling for groceries with the GMA, Freeman will still be the point man for one of America’s largest lobby groups.

In a statement issued by the GMA, Freeman addressed his motivations for finding a new career focus:

“I’ve always been drawn to industries that have a close connection to consumers and am energized by the opportunity to play a role in driving the growth and evolution of one that is a vital part of people’s daily lives.

I look forward to leading the development of strategies that firmly establish GMA as an effective driver of growth and collaboration in our industry.”