IMEGA director Joe Brennan Jr. talks gambling with Quadjack’s Marco Valerio

Joe Brennan Jr
Joe Brennan Jr
iMEGA Director Joe Brennan Jr

Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (IMEGA) chief Joe Brennan, Jr. recently made an appearance on the radio show to talk about anything and everything related to the gambling industry.

Ever the brilliant man that he has been billed up to be, Brennan touched on a number of topics with host Marco Valerio. He shared his insight and opinions on his drive to legalize online gambling in New Jersey, the battle between federal and state legislation, and his thoughts on the country’s poker community.

Brennan is considered one of the brightest minds in the industry today and the words that come from him carry significant weight. In talking about New Jersey’s unprecedented drive towards legalized online gambling, Brennan revealed the approach he took and the seemingly open – and fruitful – correspondence he has had with state leaders.

“Gaming affects legislators all over the state, not just in Atlantic City,” he said. “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.”

Regarding the topic of online gambling regulation and who gets first dibs on doing it between the federal government and state legislators, Brennan made it clear which side he thinks is actively pursuing it and which side is, in his own words, “ambivalent about the issue”.

“I’m not anti-federal…but it’s never been in the cards,” he said. “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. 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.”

The IMEGA chief also talked about Sands CEO and chairman Sheldon Adelson’s long-standing stance regarding online poker, specifically his opposition to make online poker legally available to the American public.

“He may have the best take right now on the economics of Internet poker. Relatively speaking, it is a smaller pie than the rest of the gaming industry, and even online, it’s smaller than sports, casino, and bingo when it comes to liquidity,” Brennan said.

Despite not embracing Sands’ position, Brennan wasn’t afraid to be candid to poker advocates, especially to those that think the game should carry certain gambling exceptions based on the notion that it’s a game of skill. At the end of the day, it’s still all about how big of a business it is, and Brennan bared the truth on the matter.

“I know this might upset some of your listeners, but at the end of the day, poker is not a big business,” he said. “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.”