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May 20, 2008
 
       
 

FAHRENKOPF
GOES TO CHINA


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For a man who goes to Vegas 15 times a year, ex-politico Frank Fahrenkopf sure doesn't gamble much. CEO of the American Gaming Association, a 40-member association representing distributors of gaming equipment (like slots) and 10 casino corporations (think Harrahs), Frank limits his wagering to Saturday golf games, where winners max out at $6, and penny-ante poker with his buddies. But he's betting heavily on one thing: the Asian market.        

 

When we tracked him down in his Metro Center office, the former Republican National Committee chair (1984-89) told us about his doings in Macau, the epicenter of Asia's casino explosion. In 2004, Macau's first Vegas-style casino opened (the $400 million Sands Macau) and turned a profit in 10 short months. To capitalize on the huge market, which already accounts for more gaming venue than Atlantic City, AGA launched Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia last year with 72 exhibitors and 3,000 attendees. Next month the show will be back, this time at the Venetian Macau's 1,000,000-SF convention center (40 times the capacity of last year's place).  Frank's expecting 15,000 attendees and 180 exhibitors, showing everything from custom gaming chips to security cameras with facial-recognition technology.                

 

Along with the original G2E in Vegas, which draws 30,000 from 106 countries, the two trade shows helped AGA rake in $8 million in '07 revenue, highest in Frank's 13-year tenure. Macaus's gaming explosion got a boost six years ago, when the Chinese Chamber of Commerce invited Frank over to talk business. Over "dumpling dinners," Frank explained that to entice U.S. casinos to China, a strict regulatory environment would actually help (he calls U.S. gaming the most heavily regulated industry besides atomic energy). State gaming commissions here claim jurisdiction over a casino's operations regardless of location, and no U.S. operator would want to enter a market with lax regulation that could lead to license loss in America. The Chinese regs, Frank tells us, are now watertight.    

 

Besides the day job, Frank co-chairs the Commission on Presidential Debates, which he founded in 1987 with former DNC chair Paul Kirk. The Commission sets the rules and regulations for general election Presidential and VP debates, and has produced 18 of them since 1988. Frank says that while John McCain and Barack Obama have floated the idea of debating Lincoln-Douglas style (without a moderator), he's not having it. Lincoln and Douglas, Frank reminded us, each spoke for 90 uninterrupted minutes. Enough said.

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