Public Polling on Internet Gaming is Meaningless – for now! By Jeffrey Compton October 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm (I would like to thank CDC Gaming Reports Editor John Broughton for his invaluable contributions to this analysis.) Twenty-four hours before I sat down to write this column, I had no idea that it would be about Internet gaming. By chance, two contributions this week to CDC Gaming Reports dealt with the subject. Friday afternoon, the Las Vegas Review Journal published a story on the findings of a recent survey done by The Terrance Group, work done for the Las Vegas Sands Corp, a well-known critic of legalized expansion of Internet gaming. Truth be told, I have yet to formulate any strong opinions on this subject, because I am still learning more about it. (And if you are still learning, I recommend Artur Loss’ article – an excellent introduction with extensive references.) If I were pinned down, my thoughts (today) are: in a perfect world I would rather not give the average person the ability to gamble from their living room; however this is not a perfect world – Internet gaming is here to stay. The United States (and Europe) must decide how to effectively and positively deal with it. As the United States learned with liquor, 95 years ago, an outright ban is not only ineffectual – it hands the profits to the wrong people. Personal opinions aside, I find The Terrance Group poll meaningless. Not inaccurate, just meaningless. The Terrance Group, which primarily does strategic political polling for Republican candidates, contacted 1,000 likely voters (Republican, Democratic and Independent) in all 50 states. The respondents were first asked some general political questions (direction of the country, President Obama’s job performance, etc.) The responses match those from other polls I have read, but the most telling was to the question of which issue (from a list of seven) was most important to them. Controlling spending and reducing debt was on the top of the list (25%); reducing crime and improving public safety was at the bottom (3%). Internet gaming was nowhere to be found. Then the respondents were asked their opinions of gambling as a way to raise state revenue (62% approve) and of six specific types of gambling (67% have a negative view of Internet gambling). Finally, questions were asked how they felt about various reasons to be concerned about online gambling, including “If Congress legalizes internet gambling, there would be a significantly increased risk of exposure and access to gambling by children and young people under the age of twenty-one” and “Internet gambling websites are predatory in targeting young people, the elderly, and the poor – trying to lure them into gambling with free gifts and discounts.” (Note: The word “gambling” rather than “gaming” was used throughout the poll. At the risk of offending the AGA, I have never felt a great difference between the two words – and I do not feel that the survey results would have been any different had “gaming” been used instead of “gambling.”) As you may expect, slightly over 50% of the respondents found these two statements “extremely concerning”. For the other four similar questions, 45% to 52% found them “extremely concerning”. And I am positive that if the same group were read a statement that “If Congress passes the Innovation Act of 2013, it would wipe out all incentives for innovation by small entrepreneurs”, that a high percentage would find that “extremely concerning” – because in these cases the respondents do not know enough about the issues to question the questions. If I ask people about their opinions and concerns regarding the Obamacare website, the recent federal government shutdown, the civil war in Syria, or the final outcome of the 2013 World Series (Go BoSox!), I get responses based on considerable thought and interest. Those responses may not be based on information that I personally find persuasive, but on these issues, people have done some reading, television watching, and listening (maybe NPR, maybe Rush), and know much more than simply what a pollster describes as consequences that might result from Congress taking a specific action. Out of the 1,000 people surveyed by The Terrance Group, I am sure that 950 haven’t given Internet gaming more than fifteen minutes thought over the past year. When they hear the phrase “Internet gambling” over the telephone, I wonder what image goes through their mind. A middle age guy in his study playing poker with six other enthusiasts across the country, or a welfare family (kids included) playing slots on TV? Polls done forty years ago, regarding the spread of gambling across the United States, especially if gambling were presented as set of societal concerns, would certainly show high negative numbers. But with time (more information and more experience), opinions have changed. What is needed is for all sides and participants in this issue (including CDC Gaming Reports) to further educate the industry, the government, the media and the general public. And only then would it be valid (and fair) to ask the public what their opinions are. (Note: This analysis is based on a memo provided to CDC Gaming Reports by The Terrance Group, a memo that included methodology, responses, and conclusions. We were not provided detailed information about the respondents (age, gender, political party, etc), the full wording of the survey questions, detailed results (cross-tabs, for example), or exactly how the survey was conducted (the phone calling protocols).