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The gambling industry needs a unified, well-articulated message to promote online gambling on Capitol Hill and should embrace fantasy sports, national pollster Frank Luntz told delegates to GiGse 2015 Monday in San Francisco.
“We’re trying to find language that transcends Democrats and Republicans,” Luntz said of political partisanship and anti-gambling sentiment in the nation’s capital.
“The chairman of the Judiciary [Committee] on the House side hates you guys,” Luntz said of Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
“He basically calls you murderers. He accuses you guys of what he calls suicides, did he not?”
“His language is as strong as anything that I’ve seen … and it makes me nervous.”
Former U.S. Representative and lobbyist Jon Porter said the industry “is not doing a very good job of educating policy makers” on Internet gaming.
“We need to do things differently,” he said.
Others at the conference cited the industry’s lack of unity, particularly with the heavily financed anti-Internet campaign of Las Vegas Sands Entertainment CEO Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson is generating bi-partisan support for the Restoration of American’s Wire Act (RAWA).
When one industry lobbyist suggested the industry’s strategy was “to make Adelson look evil,” Luntz replied, “You don’t win by taking a shot at people. You win by making your case.”
Luntz, whose clients include the American Gaming Association, the commercial gambling industry’s lobby, urged the industry to use phraseology emphasizing personal freedom.
“It’s about personal freedom: The freedom to work; the freedom to play; the freedom to be entertained,” Luntz said.
“The government shouldn’t tell you how to live.”
“Eighty percent of Americans believe in the freedom to gamble. That’s the personal message. The people believe they have the right to gamble on the Internet and that no politician should deny them that right.”
“What your opponents are communicating is denying the freedom to gamble. You’re about freedom and they’re about denial. That’s very specific.”
Luntz said it is also important for the industry to promote technological advancements in online gaming to ensure privacy and security, global positioning and age verification.
Ninety-one percent of online gamblers believe the sites can be hacked.
“You don’t want to meet standards, you want to exceed them, in everything you do,” Luntz said. “That shows commitment.”
Underage gambling can be politically catastrophic to efforts to move forward with online gambling, Luntz said.
“This concern about trust and about hacking pales in comparison to what would happen … if one of your companies got busted because underage gamers were on [a gambling website] and did stupid stuff,” he said.
“One of you can screw it up for all of you.”
Age verification is particularly important in the potentially lucrative and fast-growing fantasy sports segment of the online gambling industry.
“The fantasy stuff is just blowing [Internet gambling] wide open,” Luntz said.
The average age of fantasy sports players is “late 20s, early 30s,” he said, “and getting younger and younger.”
“You got teenagers doing it with real money,” Luntz said. “I don’t mean 17 or 18-year-old teenagers, but 14 or 15-year-old teenagers.
In a recent presentation at iGaming North America, DraftKings CEO Jason Robbins stressed that his company does not accept underage players and has various verification levels in place to prevent underage play.
“I fundamentally believe your greatest opportunity is going to come from fantasy,” Luntz said. “[Players] already know how to play it. They already like the competition. It’s something they truly enjoy doing.”
Luntz described himself as optimistic about the future of online gambling.
“I’m not as negative as people say I am,” he said. “In fact, you look at polling over the last several years and people are more supportive of gaming.
“Support for Internet gaming has continued to increase as people have become more accepting of it.”
Much of the increasing popularity can be attributed to technological innovations in the games.
“The best technology now makes it an interesting and engaging experience,” he said. “You go back and look at the way things used to work. The difference over the last five years is remarkable.”