Reel Lives: The AGA’s Bill Miller On Helping The Industry Through COVID, The Sports Betting Explosion, And Coaching His Kids

Eric Raskin

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Every gambler has a story to tell. And so does every person who chooses to make a living in this unique industry.

In our “Reel Lives” seriesCasino Reports shines a spotlight on people working in the gaming business, from executives, to analysts, to media members and communications pros, and all points in between.

The subject in this interview: Bill Miller, the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA) since 2019.

Casino Reports (CR): Prior to coming to the AGA, your work experience was not directly in gaming. What was your biggest motivation for taking the job and entering this space?

Bill Miller (BM): My previous job, I was at the Business Roundtable, which was a trade organization made up of 204, at the time, Fortune 500 CEOs. And of those, I had three CEOs that were in the gaming space. I had Gary Loveman, who was the then-CEO of Caesars, and Jim Murren, who was the then-CEO of MGM, and I had known [Sands CEO] Sheldon Adelson for a long time in my previous job at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. So I knew a lot about the industry.

And I had expressed interest when I was at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that running a trade association would have a lot of appeal to me, but it would have to be the right one, in the right industry. So when this opportunity came about, there were a number of people that reached out to me — including some of those that I just mentioned ­— who said, look, our politics are very different in a lot of ways, but we think that you’d be good in this role.

Ultimately, I loved the idea of coming into the gaming industry, particularly after PASPA was repealed. When I was a candidate, the smoke was just clearing from the Supreme Court’s decision and the states were just beginning the process of figuring out how to move forward. I think that the industry knew there was a lot of work to do to get sports betting up and running. And I knew many of the brick-and-mortar guys from my previous jobs, and so to me, it was natural. I’ve always loved the industry, and I’ve had a lot of experience with a number of people in the industry, so when the opportunity came along, it was very much something that I wanted to do.

CR: Inside or outside gaming, what career accomplishment are you most proud of?

BM: Helping to lead the industry through COVID. We had a thousand brick-and-mortar casinos all closed during that period of time, for months and months at a time. And I think that, helping to show policymakers up on Capitol Hill how we were essential to the reopening of the country, and being able to open responsibly, was important.

But I think the most important part was for the first time in the history of the gaming industry, we actually got federal assistance like every other American business. If you look back in time and go back to some other major national events where the federal government backstopped businesses that were hurt, whether it be 9/11 or the 2008 crash, up to Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina, in all of these cases, the gaming industry was discriminated against from the perspective of support by the federal government. And so for the first time ever, we actually were treated like every other American business, which I think was a great accomplishment. And, I think importantly, it was a show of how mainstream the industry has become in the last couple of decades.

CR: How do you like to spend free time away from work? Any interesting hobbies or secret talents?

BM: I love playing pretty much every sport with my kids. I’ve got two sons, 10½ and 9, and so the bulk of my time is teaching them the sports that I know and learning the sports that they’re interested in.

And if I have a secret talent, or at least a talent that has come out because of that, it’s, I’ve coached both of my boys’ soccer teams for the last three years. I played almost every sport in high school and some in college, but I never knew anything about soccer. Never played soccer, and still know the least about soccer of any of the sports. Soccer just happens to be the sport that my two kids love the most. So, I’m a novice, but enthusiastic, coach.

CR: What surprises you more: How quickly sports betting legalization has spread, or how slowly online casino legalization has spread?

BM: I would definitely say how quickly sports betting legislation has moved. I say this a lot: I’ve spent most of my life either in government or advising government or lobbying government, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything move as quickly in statehouses as sports betting.

And, think about how polarized our country is, right? Sports betting has moved in Republican- or Democrat-led states, any combination you can think of, the policymakers in those states, Republican governor, Democrat governor, Republican legislature, Democrat legislature, they all moved very quickly on this because they all knew that their constituents were betting on sports and that it was important to give their constituents the opportunity to have a safe, legal, regulated marketplace. If you’re looking for hope in a hyper-partisan world, maybe the gaming industry is a place to start.

CR: As a man who’s spent a lot of time working in politics and a lot of time working in gambling, we have to get your take on election betting. Would you like to see it offered at U.S. sportsbooks?

BM: I’m not a fan. But, you know, ultimately it’s up to the regulators to make decisions on what they think is appropriate. You have regulators across the country doing a really important job in regulating the sports world. Having them all of a sudden have to dip their toe into presidential politics — or think about it, once they start into the presidential politics, you know, maybe it goes all the way to Board of Education elections. My view is, I think it’s a great accomplishment for America to move from where we had only an illegal market, other than Nevada, to a legal market for sports betting. I don’t think that the system necessarily needs political betting on top of that.

CR: What actor would you choose to play you in the movie about your life, and why?

BM: Actors don’t come to mind very quickly. … But, I’m going to go with Keanu Reeves. Only because, me and my kids, we love John Wick, and everything that I’ve ever heard or seen about Keanu Reeves as a person is very positive.

Reel Fast

Another person in gaming who has my utmost admiration is …

I’m not going to answer anybody that I could work with today, because the others would be upset. So, if I can answer with someone in the history of the gaming industry that has my utmost admiration, living or dead, I’d say Kirk Kerkorian. If you ever want to read an amazing book about the gaming industry, read the book The Gambler. It’s the story of Kirk Kerkorian. He was a truly incredible person.

My favorite sports team is …

The Washington Capitals.

Describe the offshore gambling challenge in somewhere between one word and one sentence.

Dangerous and predatory.

If you find me in a casino or on a casino app, the game/bet I’m most likely to be playing/making is …

In a casino, craps. In a sportsbook, an unlikely-to-win three-way parlay on an NFL Sunday.

What’s your favorite beverage — alcoholic, caffeinated, or otherwise?

Guinness.

My favorite place I’ve ever traveled for work is …

Probably Belfast. I went to Belfast for [the IAGA International Gaming Summit] last summer and it was incredible — and the weather was uncharacteristically beautiful.

You can find Bill on X or on LinkedIn, or perhaps by scouring the youth soccer fields in the D.C. area.

Previous installments of Reel Lives:

Strive Gaming CMO Jamie Shea On Soaking Up Knowledge, LTVs, And Stray Cats

Sporttrade COO David Huffman On An Operator’s Challenges, A CEO Who Leads By Example, And Betting On Birth Weights

GMA Consulting’s Pat Eichner On Unveiling The PointsBet-NBC Sports Pact, Being Outdoors, And Storytelling

OpenBet’s Jess Feil On Player Protection, Running An International Team, And Riding Horses