Geoff Freeman, AGA president, IRS hearing

Geoff Freeman, AGA president: “This would have enormous implications not just for loyalty cards in the casino industry but in the broader hospitality industry.” (Image: casino

American Gaming Association (AGA) President and Chief Executive Geoff Freeman testified at an IRS hearing on Capitol Hill this week, voicing industry concerns over plans to lower the tax reporting threshold for slot winnings from $1,200 to $600.

Also present at the hearing were casino executives and tribal representatives.

The consensus within the casino industry is that the proposals would be detrimental to customer experience, while increasing paper work for casinos and disrupting the casino floor.

Casinos would also require expensive upgrades to their backend systems.

There are concerns, in particular, about IRS suggestions that the proposed rule could be enforced through the electronic tracking of players’ gambling habits through their customer loyalty cards.

“The gaming industry is aware of no other industry in the country for which the IRS has issued regulations requiring the industry to deploy its customer loyalty program for federal tax collection purposes,” the AGA said recently.

“Customer Would Walk” 

“While we recognize the IRS’ concerns and objectives, we question the need to impose mandatory, across-the-board use of the player-tracking tool for tax reporting purposes,” said Freeman. “Rather than mandating across-the-board use for tax reporting, we believe a more targeted approach is possible for achieving the IRS’ objective.”

“The customer would walk away,” Freeman said in a post-hearing interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal. “This would have enormous implications not just for loyalty cards in the casino industry but in the broader hospitality industry: hotels, airlines and others.”

“The reduction in the reportable threshold could have a devastating effect on our business, and we strongly oppose the decrease,” added John Canham, VP of casino operations at Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway.

The AGA has launched an online petition opposing the proposals, already signed by 10,000 people. These signatures were from casino employees and customers alike, from across all 50 states, said Freeman.

The AGA represents operators and gaming suppliers that collectively support 1.7 million US jobs.

Illegal Gambling Advisory Board Established

Elsewhere, the AGA’s new Illegal Gambling Advisory Board held its inaugural meeting this week.

This is not, as the name may suggest, a hotline offering advice on where to find the best odds from illicit bookmakers, it is, in fact, the opposite.

The board has been set up as part of the AGA’s “Stop Illegal Gambling: Play it Safe” initiative, and seeks to distinguish the regulated gaming market from the “criminal networks that rely on illegal gambling to fund violent crimes and drug and human trafficking.”

“The Illegal Gambling Advisory Board, along with forthcoming partnerships, will ensure that illegal gambling is brought to the forefront of public discussion so that we can clearly distinguish our highly regulated industry from the illegal enterprises that fund negative activities and tarnish our reputation,” explained Brian Cohen, director of Ally Development for the AGA.