Travel association exec to lead US gambling lobby

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Associated Press

Posted on April 18, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Updated Saturday, Apr 20 at 5:06 AM

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The new head of the U.S. casino lobby is a 38-year-old with ties to the travel industry who says he will seek consensus on Internet gambling.

The American Gaming Association nominated Geoff Freeman as its new president and CEO in Las Vegas Wednesday.

Freeman comes to the gambling lobby from the U.S. Travel Association, where he has been chief operating officer. He will replace president Frank Fahrenkopf, 73, in July.

Among his priorities will be navigating the burgeoning online gambling industry.

"We're going to have to determine if the industry can get on the same page," he said.

Last fall, Fahrenkopf called black market Internet gambling one of the biggest threats to the industry. The association is pushing for the legalization of online wagering, and some Las Vegas-based casino giants, including Caesars Entertainment, appear to be taking steps to cash in on the market if and when it opens.

Fahrenkopf, who was formerly the chairman of the Republication National Committee, has served as the organization's only president since its founding in 1995.

The lobby has been planning for his departure for two years, and he will stay on as a consultant through at least the end of 2013.

Casinos no longer are just about gambling, and its lobbyists must also understand the travel and hospitality industries, Freeman said.

"Gaming is really taking on a broader image, and that's the image of entertainment. It includes restaurants, shows, hospitality and lodging, and gaming," he said.

Gaming Association board chairman Richard Haddrill said the group will benefit from Freeman's policy background and extensive network of connections in Washington.

Freeman "has the skills to build coalitions and execute grass roots campaigns," said Haddrill, who also is chairman of Bally Technologies Inc.

Freeman graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and worked for the health insurance lobby and the conservative Heritage Foundation earlier in his career.

He will remain based in Washington but will spend time meeting with casino executives around the country.

"I'm going to be ears open to just about anything that anyone has to say," he said.

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Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier

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