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Emily D. Swoboda

NROG's Radio Men up to the Task

27 September 2006

Two veterans of the radio broadcasting business are mounting a campaign against legislative attempts to take away American citizens' right to gamble online.

"We knew we had 30 million people that we could activate in the United States because we run campaigns that have done that."
- Brian Jakusik

Brian Jakusik and Jay Bailey, who worked together in radio for seven years, have started a non-profit organization with the primary goal of making the American public more aware of the online gambling industry. Their creation, the National Right for Online Gambling (NROG), got off the ground in August 2006.

"We can't make people's minds up," Jakusik, executive director, said. "All we can do is provide them with the other side. There's so much free publicity out there right now for the bill and it's all bad publicity. It's all arrests; it's all racketeering charges and things of that nature and that's all the American people are seeing. And what I think we're going to be able to do is provide the other side of the coin so they can become as outraged as we are."

Bailey was an on-air radio personality for 12 years, and Jakusik was in the industry for 16 years as a general manager and sales executive at several stations. The duo intends to use their skill sets and backgrounds in radio and advertising to launch a major media campaign.

"We're looking at it from a different set of eyes," Jakusik said. "We're not lawyers. We're not politicians. We're media."

The pair plans to conduct a nationwide poll to gauge how many Americans care--or even know--about the issue and use the results to build an effective nationwide media campaign. They will also formulate a state-by-state strategy designed to engage opposing congressmen in "battleground" states.

"Mass media will be our big push," Bailey, director of development, explained. "There are thousands of outlets we could use tomorrow, but we want to do our research first and build our message and backing."

The partners got involved in the I-gaming industry through first-hand experience dealing with the U.S. crackdown on gambling advertising.

"I left terrestrial radio back in 2002 and started, with the help of Brian, the National Radio Network, where we were more of a barter company, but we represented a lot of shows," Bailey said. "We sold the advertising time, and that's how it starts to tie into the Internet gaming industry.

"We became the largest dot-com cleared network in the country; meaning that our network of more than 1,400 radio stations allowed offshore gaming sites to advertise their dot-com," Bailey said.

But this was before the Department of Justice sent letters to various members of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in 2003, threatening those who accept ads for online gambling services with aiding and abetting charges.

"When we saw everything that was going on, we realized we had a stake in this; this was our company at stake," Bailey said. "We've since sold the network and moved on to other consulting jobs and things, but we have deep roots in the industry and we want to protect what we believe is a very basic American right to be able to do this and help the great friends that we made in the industry during those years."

Starting the organization, Jakusik said, was not easy, but he believes that, despite their inexperience in this area, their talents will serve them well.

"We are in this until this thing is over for good."
- Jay Bailey

"We know what we could do," he said. "We knew we had 30 million people that we could activate in the United States because we run campaigns that have done that. So, not having the political background was a little scary, but it's the same thing. We're selling an issue instead of a product, so it's kind of a simple thing to do. It's a small investment on our part and a major investment in time. But both of us are so driven; when we do something we don't do it at 50 percent, we do it at 150 percent."

He added, "We know how to reach the American people. We know how to get them to pick up the phone and we know how to get them to buy products. So with the right message, we were confident we could provide a very large response to the folks who are making the decisions so they could see that there's a large portion of the American public who think this is a really bad idea."

Neither Bailey nor Jakusik is drawing a salary from NROG; both remain heavily entrenched in the media business and do a lot of consulting.

"NROG isn't going to make either one of us a penny," Jakusik said. "It's strictly volunteer work. Whatever we're going to raise we're going to turn right back into media and research. This is kind of a labor of love."

Echoing his partner's sentiment, Bailey said their cause is the greater good, not the greater profit.

"Most people become involved in something like this because the profit is the upside," Bailey said. "For us, it's the win that is the upside. We get more money than we probably deserve for the things that we do, but this is something that we want the victory here. This isn't about money. This is about proving that what we do is as good as anyone else can do and we can affect the way our congress thinks and acts and that we can actually educate the U.S. public on issues. Will we do this again for another issue? I doubt it."

Bailey works out of a West Palm Beach, Fl. office and Brian is just outside Boston. Everything is coordinated online; everything is networked, and they communicate mostly by telephone.

"We talk on the phone probably more than most husbands and wives talk on the phone," Bailey said. "We probably talk 30 times a day. Anytime there's a move, we're on the phone. We're on the phone with our people that we've got inside Washington. So, it's all telecommunications."

NROG's support staff is minimal. It is a volunteer staff, for the most part, but Jakusik said they are bringing on a few specialists to help with non-traditional ways to communicate with the public.

"We're trying to keep the cost as low as possible," Jakusik said. "We don't want to lose money to administrative costs."

Bailey and Jakusik want it conveyed to the public that NROG is not a fly-by-night organization. They are passionate about what they are doing and they intend to see it through as many sessions of Congress as it takes.

"We are in this until this thing is over for good," Bailey said.

At the moment, the task at hand is making sure Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., does not attach an anti-Internet gambling measure to any must-pass bills during the current session.

"We need to deal with the fires that have popped up in Washington over the last few days," Bailey said. "It looks like, thankfully, we've gotten past the DOD bill, but Senator Frist is very adamant about putting this into a bill, so we've got time for him to try something else. So we're going to continue to watch him and continue to work with our folks up there. We want to try to get through this session without any action being taken."

NROG has long-term goals as well.

"What we'd like to push for is doing some research," Bailey said. "If they'd really like to make this a case, let's get a committee together to find out how regulation is being done in other countries. The U.S. is one of the few that doesn't allow it. China is considering legalizing it. The U.K. has legalized it. It's something that's already being done. So let's get a study, let's find out what these people are doing, how they're doing it, how they're regulating it and find out if it can be done.

"I think that's what we'll push for . . . to get [Congress] to spend some dollars to try to really understand the industry."

NROG opened up to membership in early September and signed up over 15,000 members without spending a dime of its advertising budget.

"Here's how it happened," Bailey explained. "We have not done any advertising yet. We've gotten into discussion boards and posted our message just to get it into the community. That's how we've gotten 15,000 members.

"It is really a phenomenal community. The amount of the support they have given has been unbelievable."

Membership is free, but the organization accepts donations. Jakusik is structuring donation rewards packages through which people who make donations upon signing up get credits at poker rooms or online gambling sites at which they are not a member.

"We wanted to make it something that wouldn't cost the organization money," Jakusik said. "We didn't want t-shirts, or mugs, although I was pushing for the lapel pins. We wanted all donor dollars to go back into the organization."

Bailey said that any programs put in place now will be retroactive so current members will receive the benefits as well.

Jakusik is also organizing a charity poker tournament fundraiser for which he hopes to get a number of major casinos on board for the finals. He is still working out the details of the event.

"We're going to build ourselves a very active membership group, and we need to have them ready like the minutemen, but we can't let them go away," Bailey said. "We're going to stay on top of them and we're going to see this all the way through taxation and regulation. It's better for everybody; the protection that the player's going to get, Wall Street's going to see a surge in the stock market, if people are going to be able to invest in things like this. Investment bankers, tax revenues, jobs; there's a huge positive upside, and I can't see us giving up before that happens."

Jakusik is confident that NROG is fighting the good fight.

"We know we're doing the right thing," Jakusik said. "To this point everything has been done behind the scenes. A lot of Average Joes don't know what's going on. A lot of those who play don't know what's going on. So, we just want to bring that message out to the folks and feel like we are vital in making this go away forever."

NROG's Radio Men up to the Task is republished from
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda