Founded just six weeks ago, the National Right for Online Gaming (NROG) is joining the fight to stop an online gambling ban being passed in Congress. To begin its efforts, the non-profit organization is focused on informing and educating online gamblers and non-gamblers alike about H.R. 4411, the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act.
NROG was co-founded by Brian Jakusik, the executive director, and Jason Bailey, the director of development, who saw a need to make the public more aware of the online gambling ban in Congress.
"It scares me because there's only one side of the issue out there right now in the media," Jakusik said. "The politicians supporting the online gambling bill and the arrests of online gambling execs are what people are seeing in the media, so they're not getting a balanced view of the issue. Their only source of information is the media, so they believe what they see there."
Most of the organizations already working against the ban are working behind the scenes directly with the politicians to stop the bill. NROG plans to take a different direction by using the media to better educate the American public on the issue.
"So far the politicians and other government officials have been allowed to build a negative image of the online gambling industry without any opposition," Jakusik said. "Our goal is to educate the people on the other side of the issue as well, and we believe that most Americans will be opposed to an online gambling ban when they get all the information."
One of the messages the organization hopes to get across is that the online gambling companies are no different than any other legal, legitimate business. Jakusik said that someone gambling online at home is no differen than if they were to go to the corner store for a lotto ticket.
That's just one angle from which the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act appears to be hypocritical. It also makes exemptions for certain types of gambling. The bill would ban all forms of online gambling except for betting on horse racing and state-run lotteries.
The fight isn't necessarily just about the right for a person to choose to gamble online either. It's an issue of personal freedoms and what limits the government has in interfering with a someone's personal life.
"Once you give an inch, there's room for them to take more and more," Jakusik said. "If a person isn't allowed to gamble with their own money in their own home, the government will find other ways to infringe on freedom as well."
Jakusik said he thinks there would be a lot of people who've never played poker or gambled online who will step up to support the organization in their fight against the ban because it's a personal freedom issue.
What it will take to get to these people is to tackle the monumental task of educating the public on the issue.
"Right now there are people who actually play online who have no idea this is even going on," Bailey said.
The NROG is currently in the first phase of its plan to educate people and fight the online gambling ban. They're working on fundraising, making contacts in Washington D.C. and building membership of people who want to stay informed on the issue.
They're working with a company to conduct a nationwide poll in order to gather information like how many people know about the issue or how many even care. The poll information will help them craft a future media campaign so it's more effective and reaches more people.
"Mass media will be our big push," Bailey said. "There are thousands of outlets we could use tomorrow, but we want to do our research first and build our message and backing."
When the timing is right, the NROG will begin an intense awareness campaign, running in multiple outlets across all mediums. Key elements include target media campaigning in states that will influence opposing congressmen, as well as increasing the nationwide campaign, and focusing on "battleground" states.
"The mentality for organizations has been to sit back and be quiet. Nobody wants to stir things up in Washington on the issue," Bailey said. "We don't want to rile people up or create mass hysteria either. Right now we just want to educate people and build up a base of members for when we need them."
People can sign up for a free membership at www.saveonlinegaming.com. With their membership they'll receive updates on NROG's progress as well as the status of the online gambling bill in Congress.
If supporters would like to do more, they can make a donation to the NROG to help with its efforts. The organization also suggests that people can write or call their state's representatives to let them know they don't support an online gambling ban, or they can send a letter to the editor of their local newspaper expressing their opinion of the legislation.