Gaming Wins Big in Nevada Caucuses

Over the last few days, observers have been talking about Senator Harry Reid’s successful push to make Nevada an important state in the presidential nominating process. Beyond the candidates who appealed to the state’s racially, geographically and philosophically diverse electorate, many benefitted from this move, not least of which is the casino gaming industry.

On TV and Twitter, images of candidates shaking hands, taking selfies and listening to the concerns of one of the 180,000 people who make up Nevada’s casino gaming industry were hard to miss. At casinos on and off the Las Vegas Strip, candidates held rallies, celebrated victories and vowed to continue the fight.

In the end, gaming won.

Weeks before voting began, AGA distributed a voter guide to the nearly 200,000 Nevada gaming employees. While we did not endorse, we made clear what candidates think about gaming through a red (opposed), yellow (mixed) and green (open/supportive) light system. We were pleased to work with the campaigns over many months, including up until three days before the Nevada Democratic caucus, when Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign provided a statement expressing his strong support for gaming.

It’s no surprise that a candidate would want to back the industry, considering that 80 percent of Nevada gaming employees say they are more likely to support a candidate who understands and supports their industry. And the opinions of this group matter, as gaming employees make up 15 percent of Nevada’s electorate — one of the largest voting blocs in the state.

While the Nevada caucuses are behind us, casino gaming employees nationwide will soon begin to vote in droves. Over the next three weeks, 170,000 people who depend on gaming for their livelihoods will have the chance to weigh in when they vote in: Colorado; Massachusetts; Oklahoma; Minnesota; Kansas; Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi; Michigan; Florida; Illinois; Missouri; North Carolina; and Ohio. Yes, all of these states boast a vibrant casino gaming industry.

If Nevada is any indication, employees in these states can be counted on to show up at their caucus site or polling place. Recent research showed that three-quarters (73%) of employees are closely watching what candidates are saying. Eight months from now, in the general election, 93 percent of gaming employees say they are likely to cast a ballot.

We’ve been encouraging candidates to meet with employees and engage with the industry so that when they go to Washington, they’ll be positioned to make more informed decisions about the many issues that affect gaming — from immigration to tax policy and more. They will know that we’re a $240 billion industry that supports 1.7 million jobs and generates $38 billion in taxes across 40 states.

While we endured countless casino clichés and monotonous metaphors about a candidate’s “big gamble,” a campaign “going all in,” or the “high stakes” for Democrats and Republicans, we’re happy to suffer through these tired tropes if it means the next president will know what today’s gaming industry is all about.