Study yields positives, challenges for gaming industry

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LAS VEGAS -- Frank Fahrenkopf, president and chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association (AGA), told delegates at the Nevada Governor's Conference on Tourism here that the results of the National Gambling Impact study were not as negative as the AGA and members of the gaming community had feared.

The study, which took a nine-member panel nearly two-and-a-half years to conduct, examined the proliferation of gaming in the U.S. and its effects on society.

Indeed, Fahrenkopf told delegates at the conference that the report did not call for federal taxation of the gaming industry -- as many had feared -- and stated that individual states, and not the federal government, should regulate gaming.

In addition, he said, "What this commission did was say for the first time that gaming is not monolithic."

The study, he said, actually differentiated between various types of gaming, such as commercial, or casino, gaming; Native American gaming; government-run lotteries; wagering on such sports as dog racing and jai alai; charity gaming, such as bingo; Internet gaming, and illegal gaming.

The report also indicated that destination resorts with casinos "have tremendous positives," he said.

"They promote capital investment [in their communities], they provide quality jobs and they promote economic development."

Several public opinion surveys also have supported what Fahrenkopf said was his firm belief "that the American people had no problem with the [gaming] industry."

As for challenges facing the gaming industry in the immediate future, Fahrenkopf cited several pieces of legislation pending in Washington, including a bill to prohibit gambling on the Internet.

National Collegiate Athletic Association officials also have been lobbying for legislation that would repeal an exemption that permits Nevada to offer legal wagering on college sports.

According to Fahrenkopf, the problem with betting on college sports does not lay with the Silver State's sports books, where the wagering "is regulated, taxed and controlled."

Rather, he said, the problem is illegal betting on college campuses, a phenomenon that is occurring nationwide.

As to whether such legislation will be introduced next year, Fahrenkopf said, "watch your sports pages. It ought to be very interesting."

Another issue Fahrenkopf addressed was what has been dubbed "slots for tots," in which gaming opponents say children are being lured into gambling by the use of the images of cartoon and popular children's television characters.

Although Fahrenkopf said he believes this is a matter for state gaming control boards, he reported that the AGA was working with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to investigate.

The images "are not aimed at youngsters but at baby boomers," he said. "Give me a break -- kids today don't even know 'I Dream of Jeannie.' "

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