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    If New Jersey sportsbetting and online gaming ever come to pass, you can thank this man: iMEGA chief Joe Brennan Jr.

    Posted by Marco Valerio April 11, 2012


    Gaming policy overlord Joe Brennan Jr skips goose hunts and talking points in favor of actually getting things done.

    While New Jersey lawmakers like state Senator Ray Lesniak and Governor Chris Christie are getting all the credit in the local, national and even international press, D.C.-based lobbyist Joe Brennan Jr. is widely recognized by the industry’s cognoscenti as the indispensable choreographer of the state’s happy march toward unprecedented gambling liberty.

    Brennan is the director of IMEGA (Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association),
    a “professional association dedicated to fostering cooperation between the online gaming industry and government at all levels, and to promote innovation, openness and freedom on the Internet.” Brennan’s first and, for a year, only appearance on QuadJacks Poker Radio had memorably been in May 2011, just a few weeks after Black Friday. After a very impressive showing at iGaming North America this year, it was a privilege to have one of the industry’s brightest thinkers and game-changers on The Gaming World for this extended interview on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.

    The Brennan Method

    While many other states are still just toying with the idea, New Jersey has been sprinting toward intrastate online gaming, especially after the DOJ memo, in remarkably rapid fashion. Brennan’s standout success, hopefully replicable elsewhere, lies in a calculated yet sincere pragmatism that wins the hearts and minds of the legislators far more ably than methods tried elsewhere. He explains:

    “Gaming affects legislators all over the state, not just in Atlantic City. We came in and listened to them first, and then responded in ways that were meaningful to them. Gaming taxes and revenue may not be key issues for politicians in the north of New Jersey, but what might be key issues to them are jobs and quality of work. North Jersey, for example, has the highest IT infrastructure density than anywhere else on the planet. The igaming industry is an industry that could use an awful lot of this unused capacity. In North Jersey, that means jobs, investments, ribbon-cuttings for these politicians. That’s something they can bring back to their constituencies.”

    This approach is refreshingly different from the broken record of The O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money” looping on the iPods of most other swaggering lobbyists. “Most of the rhetoric,” continues Brennan, “both at the federal and state level, is based on this idea that, well, this is the kind of money that you can make from online gaming, and everybody else is already doing it, so why don’t you do it?” Why doesn’t this work more often? “Despite what many citizens think, you don’t actually get too far by making legislators feel filthy.”

    States vs Federal

    Brennan has been described as a champion of states’ rights at a time when most of the big boys are pushing heavily for what Brennan believes to be a dreamy but unlikely federal bill. On this he stands his ground, but also cares to clarify:

    “I’m not anti-federal, but it’s just not in the cards. There is no Congressional appetite to have a vote on this right now, and there hasn’t been since 2006, when the UIGEA was introduced. The vast majority of Congressmen are either unaware or ambivalent about the issue, for a number of reasons.” Brennan elucidates some of these in the interview.

    “We went down the state route because that seemed to be where there was the most interest, but more importantly, you have two historical precedents regarding gambling in the United States that evolved on a state-by-state basis: casino gambling and the lotteries.”

    On the American Gaming Association: “I think the AGA is somewhat undercut by the fact that they’re now paradoxically lobbying for some sort of federal involvement in Internet gambling, when in fact the AGA was originally organized as an entity to keep the federal government out of casino gambling.” Brennan is referring to how the American Gaming Association was first formed in the mid-90’s to repel a nasty federal tax, as explained by AGA President Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. on The Gaming World in a previous episode.

    Advice to the poker community

    Brennan is conscious that he is talking to poker players, a group he is looking out for and therefore does not mind being frank with. As with long shot federal bills, Brennan is also unconvinced by the popular “poker-only” measures which poker advocates much too optimistically consider a persuasive cinch.

    “I know this might upset some of your listeners, but at the end of the day, poker is not a big business. The reason why those companies (PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, UB) were successful is because most of the liquidity was concentrated in those two or three companies. In the long term, the only way you can be successful in the poker business is if you can dominate the market in terms of share.”

    “If the cost of getting legal, near-universal real-money Internet poker in the U.S. means also having real-money blackjack and real-money slots and real-money bingo online, the poker community should embrace that wholeheartedly.”

    QuadJacks – Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    About Marco Valerio

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