Connect with us


Legislator Education Key to Unlocking iGaming Expansion



Lack of legislator education, according to some online casino industry leaders, continues to be the biggest obstacle to more states legalizing iGaming.

That was the big takeaway at SBC Summit North America Wednesday in New Jersey, where panelists batted around ideas in discussing why online casino hasn’t kept pace with online sports betting.

“First and foremost, it’s education,” said Brandt Iden, current vice president of government affairs for Fanatics and former Michigan legislator who led the online gambling charge. “From an industry perspective, we need to tell our story better, and we’re not doing that. We’re not highlighting our successes, we’re not doing a great job ensuring lawmakers are comfortable with the responsible gaming tools we’re putting in place.”

Cesar Fernandez, a senior director and head of government relations for FanDuel, echoed Iden.

“It’s incumbent on us to educate lawmakers, to fly into states and meet with elected officials who oversee gaming,” he said. “Sit down and show them you can go on an illegal offshore site and play online casino games for real money in a way that is completely unregulated and illegal.”

Elizabeth Suever, the vice president for government relations at Bally’s, actually – literally – did just that in Rhode Island, where legislators there became the seventh state to legalize iCasino.

“I personally went legislator by legislator to get the bill passed,” she said. “It was showing them the apps, showing all the RG tools native to the app, and showing them, ‘hey, Rhode Islanders are doing this today, and they don’t have access to any of it.’ Cooling off periods, spend limits, deposit limits.”

Furthermore, Suever pointed out that not only did the legislators need a crash course in the finer points of iGaming, many of them needed a 100-level introduction.

“A lot of lawmakers maybe just don’t understand what we’re talking about when we’re talking about iGaming,” she said. “We’re assuming all these lawmakers understand what the apps are, how they operate, and frankly, they don’t. That’s been my personal experience.”

Cannibalization and money

Beyond education, the panelists noted the notion of cannibalization was another stumbling block for legislators.

“Cannibalization requires a lot of education, there’s a lot of concern,” said Suever.

Iden, for one, was aggravated with the gambling industry for, at times, turning on itself.

“I’m disappointed to see certain operators out there using the cannibalization argument to weaponize the industry against itself,” Iden said, before noting his home state of Michigan has seen a brick-and-mortar uptick since online casino was legalized.

And, of course, there’s the money angle.

“If you’re the state and you say, ‘we’re desperate for money,’ as many states are, they’ve spent their COVID dollars, now they’re saying where are the dollars going to come from – without taxing our citizens – the answer is iGaming,” Iden said.

Fernandez noted an American Gaming Association study that found some $370 billion is wagered illegally offshore on iCasino sites.

“We need to let legislators know,” Fernandez said. 

Iden, in his opening remarks, succinctly summed it all up.

“It’s been a tough road. We know to move the industry forward, iGaming is paramount to the success of many of the companies that are out there today,” he said. “And I think this is the direction not only the industry needs to go to be successful, but also this is where consumers want us to go. We know consumers are playing offshore just as much they were with sports betting, and yet legislatures have been slow to adopt.”

Continue Reading