American Gaming Association Chief Geoff Freeman Lands Top Shelf Lobbying Spot With Grocery Group

Posted on: June 5, 2018, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: June 5, 2018, 12:00h.

Geoff Freeman is leaving as CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA), the casino industry’s chief lobbying group in DC, to become CEO and president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

AGA Geoff Freeman American Gaming
Geoff Freeman is switching his focus from gaming to grocery. (Image: John Locher/AP/Getty/

Freeman’s resignation comes less than a month after the Supreme Court repealed the longstanding federal sports betting ban that the AGA so viciously fought. The court’s decision to give power to the states to set their own sports wagering laws was one of Freeman’s greatest accomplishments while at the helm of the lobbying group.

“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 (PASPA) unconstitutional, a decision that paves the way for legalized sports betting in the US,” Penn National Gaming CEO and AGA Chairman Tim Wilmott said in a statement.

The AGA was founded in 1994 with the mission of being “the single most effective champion of the industry, relentlessly protecting against harmful and often misinformed public policies, and paving a path for growth, innovation, and reinvestment.” The group calls the largest casino operators its members including MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts.

Freeman became just the second CEO of the AGA in 2013. Wilmott took over as chairman last November after MGM CEO Jim Murren stepped down from the roll.

PASPA Crusade

The federal repeal of PASPA has been the American Gaming Association’s primary mission in recent years.

A year ago this month, Freeman, amid “a wave of unprecedented support of legalized sports betting,” announced the formation of the American Sports Betting Coalition (ASBC). The AGA unit focused on repealing or replacing the federal injunction.

“Big government’s 1992 sports betting prohibition has failed to protect sports, fans, and communities,” Freeman said at the time. “We are partnering with local and state elected officials, law enforcement, and other diverse interests to tell Washington to get out of the way.”

Freeman called the Supreme Court decision a “victory for the millions of Americans who seek to bet on sports in a safe and regulated manner.” On Tuesday, Delaware became the first state to join Nevada in offering full-fledged sports gambling in wake of the federal repeal.

Supermarket Sweep

The AGA represents the $240 billion US casino industry. While that’s a big number, it pales compared to the Grocery Manufacturers Associations’ (GMA) $2.1 trillion food, beverage, and consumer packaged goods industry.

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

The AGA statement says Freeman will remain with the association until August 1 to help with the transition. As to how gaming lends to groceries, Vivek Sankaran, a GMA search committee member who is the President of Frito-Lay North America, said Freeman stood out as “the best person to lead our industry’s response to the changing needs of consumers.”