The American Gaming Association has launched a national initiative aimed at ensuring that presidential candidates understand the vital role the gaming industry plays in providing middle-class jobs and driving economic growth.
AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman announced the Gaming Votes initiative during a Feb. 12 news conference at an Aristocrat Technologies manufacturing facility in Las Vegas. Joining him were AGA Chairman Jim Murren, who is chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts; Hamilton Galloway, Oxford Economics’ head of U.S. consultancy; and two gaming industry employees who are featured in videos helping the industry put a “face on gaming.”
“The gaming industry supports 1.7 million jobs nationwide, and drives nearly a quarter trillion dollars in economic activity. In the battleground states of the 2016 presidential election, it supports over 500,000 jobs and $75 billion in economic activity,” Freeman said. “That’s why we’re going to engage and mobilize our employees in gaming states to ask candidates questions to make sure they know the importance of gaming. And that’s why we’re going to call on presidential candidates to become more educated about this industry. To replace myths with facts and to let these candidate know that the gaming industry is the gateway to middle-class jobs and when they’re talking about issues about putting Americans back to work, reforming the regulatory burden to this country’s tax reform, infrastructure, they’re talking about issues important to the gaming industry.”
The gaming industry is a national industry, Freeman said, “and this initiative will give us a national profile.”
The Gaming Votes initiative will help highlight the path to the middle class that the industry provides and emphasize its commitment to strengthening communities across the United States, Freeman said.
The initiative will include local events in battleground states such as Iowa, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and will showcase how local partnerships are helping rebuild communities in the wake of the Great Recession, according to a news release. The initiative is designed to encourage presidential hopefuls to support policies critical to the gaming industry’s future, including improving infrastructure, developing a skilled and diverse workforce, promoting innovation and reviewing regulatory burdens.
Murren noted that it’s “coincidental and exciting” that the battleground states of America are also states that have a very big vested interest in gaming. “It just worked out that way,” he said after the press conference. “It seems odd to us that over many years gaming has not even been debated or discussed with candidates. We’re going to force that issue. We’re going to force candidates to explain their positions on our industry, and I think that’s positive.”
Murren spoke of the significance of the initiative as a way to demonstrate the industry’s impact. “It’s really important for us to explain what it really means to be part of the gaming industry,” he said. “This is an amazing tapestry of individuals; we come from all walks of life. We come from every possible imaginable spectrum, country, languages and gender. We are the melting pot of America—our company alone at MGM is a majority-minority company—the majority of my employees are in fact minorities.”
Not only is the industry diverse, he said, it is providing good jobs. “We’re here to celebrate the diversity, the inclusion of all and the very fact that if you’ve got the will to work you will find a home in this industry. That’s really special.”
Moreover, industry operators often offer higher education assistance, job training skills and career advancement that helps employees achieve their goals. “So as we explore our form of entertainment through different parts of the world, we tell the story not of the beautiful buildings that we build or the great equipment that occupies those buildings, but we tell the stories of the men and women that bring our resorts to life, and without whom there would really be no gaming industry.”
As chairman, Murren has stressed the importance of reaching out to be more inclusive and to share information about the industry. “We need to reach out throughout the world because we can’t just assume that everyone has perfect information, and we’ve found that in most cases they not only have imperfect information,” Murren said. “It’s really stunning to hear the commentaries and really a lack of appreciation as to what we are as an industry.”
A new study commissioned by the AGA shows the impact of the gaming industry on jobs and economic development. The Oxford Economics report, titled “Gaming Careers: A Path to the Middle Class”, highlights the role gaming plays in offering employment opportunities that help hundreds of thousands of voters throughout the United States.
“The gaming industry has really emerged as a job creation engine with excellent career opportunities for workers of all backgrounds and skill sets,” Galloway said at the news conference. “For example, when looking at the variety of careers and skills, we found that the gaming industry employs workers in more than 200 different job classifications, including high-tech, engineering, software development and law enforcement. Moreover, the industry is expected to add more than 62,000 jobs over the next 10 years.”
The report’s research shows that workers who enter the gaming industry and stay to build their careers in gaming tend to become top performers in their occupations and many advance up the career ladder, he noted. “The big takeaway from this is that gaming offers good career opportunities for those people from all walks of life.”
In addition, the report notes the industry employs highly diverse workforces with 45 percent of the workforce composed of racial or ethnic minority employees—much more diverse than the U.S. average of 33 percent. Women make up 48 percent or nearly half of the workforce; 20 percent of gaming employees are Hispanic; and those with disabilities amount to 6 percent.
The gaming sector also employs a large percentage of younger workers, with more than one third of the gaming workforce under 30 years old, compared with 25 percent on the national average, he added.
For more information, visit www.gettoknowgaming.org.