You will probably be surprised by how many people have little understanding about predatory gambling in your community.
Therefore, educating the public and your elected officials are the keys to success. You have to see the fight as a marathon because that is what it really is. One of the powerful truths about our cause is the more people understand predatory gambling, the more they are opposed.
1. Create a steering committee
- Don’t linger. The earlier you start pulling together a committee, no matter how small at first, the more effective you will be.
- If you’re just starting out, start from the beginning and start small. Host a movie screening, then work your way toward a kickoff meeting.
- Ideally, organizing a steering committee means bringing together a core team of people with the necessary skills or expertise that you require for your action.
- Here is how one successful community group structured their steering committee (more details about the work of each area is discussed later on):
– Two Co-Chairs
– Fundraising and Local Business Relations
– Communications and Public Relations
– Community Outreach
– Signs and Stand Outs
– Voter Data and Getting Out the Vote
- One ground rule that is fundamental to success on this issue is to make clear to the steering committee members that the group does not veer away from the mission by talking about other issues of the day or partisan politics.
- When disagreements occur as they inevitably will, always bring the decision back into focus on what approach will best help achieve the mission. This approach dramatically adds much-needed clarity to the hardest decisions you’ll make.
- Give your best effort to include a lawyer in your steering group to insure you do not run afoul of local laws and ordinances and it can help you take advantage of legal action opportunities, such as zoning, environmental, and procedural issues, to stop or slow the proposed casino.
- In assembling the steering committee, try to also recruit people with research, writing, and graphic design skills to help produce your printed and online materials.
2. Create an organization with a simple and memorable name, like Stop Predatory Gambling Chicago, No Casino Springfield, etc.
- In this process, design a logo, something that will become immediately recognizable as belonging to your group and you can print on everything you do—from lawn signs to flyers to newspaper ads to press releases.
3. Develop a basic set of Talking Points/Fact Sheet which will to determine your message and then stick with it.
- Why should people oppose the casino? Some regional groups make a basic not-in-my-backyard argument and that will galvanize some people but in some instances, you may need more persuasive facts to prevail. One town that succeeded in defeating a casino against heavy odds ran a particularly effective educational campaign based on short online, newspaper and radio factoids about casinos with the tag line “The more you know about casinos the more you will oppose them.” Whatever the message is, stick with it. You should choose two or three key points to support your message. LESS IS MORE. The casino supporters will have only two key points: Revenue and Jobs. Your message also needs to be easy to remember.
- Stick to the high road. The facts are on YOUR side. Use the facts to support your case. Avoid taking the bait from your opposition—stick to your message no matter how erroneous or venomous the commentary from the pro-casino folks becomes. It is not easy to follow at times, but it will serve you well.
4. Determine which public officials, organizations, and/or governmental bodies are the ones responsible for the decision on the gambling proposal.
- Often, there is more than one. Sometimes stopping it at one level can stop it everywhere else.
5. Invite People to Join You
- Reach out to individuals and constituencies regardless of their politics. Opposition to predatory gambling comes from across the political spectrum.
- Start with your friends and neighbors. Then make a written list of target groups and organizations who may be natural allies such as: faith based organizations in the region, social service groups, public health organizations, League of Women Voters, PTAs, neighborhood associations and property abutters likely to oppose the casino. Have a clear ask of what you hope they will to do, including joining the steering committee. You may need to try more than once to get them aboard.
6. One of the steering committee’s key subcommittees is a fundraising campaign in accordance with local laws.
- IF YOU DON’T ASK PEOPLE TO DONATE, NO ONE WILL GIVE ANYTHING. If you are able to create a website, be sure to set up a Donate button with information on where to send a check. Set up a PayPal account too, if possible, so people can easily donate by credit card online. Send pleas for financial support via email and Facebook. Put out baskets and bowls for donations any time you host an event.
- Prepare a fundraising letter and get a few people in your group to sign it. Then mail/email the letter to a list of potential donors that you put together. You will need to ask for funding several times and the more specific you are about how you will spend the money raised, the better you will do.
- Recognize that gambling interests will spend lavishly on media in order to get into your community. Your objective is not to outspend them but to raise enough to cover the expenses of the key things you need: lawn signs, flyers, social media ads (very effective and inexpensive), a community mailing, website costs and ideally, legal fees to hire an attorney if you need one to help you fight.
7. Recruit as many volunteers as you possibly can
- You need to ask people to give their time, talents and treasure to your mission. Do not be discouraged initially. This will be an ongoing effort. The more people learn about the adverse effects of a casino on your community, the more willing they will be to help.
8. Network with local politicians.
- See where they stand and how they can help you. Make sure they hear from you and all the others you talk to even if they say initially they support the gambling proposal.
- When you hold a forum or any kind of public meeting or action, invite your public officials to attend. If you want your actions to have as big an impact as possible, it’s essential that you reach out to your local and regional leaders, including your state and federal office holders. You never know who might be willing to show up and be a champion against predatory gambling!
9. Community Outreach Efforts
- Create and circulate widely a petition
- As your group gains confidence from successful small steps, stretch into bigger and bolder actions. Hold a protest, and start making some noise in local media
- Depending upon your timeline, consider what type of events you can host that will enable you to spread your message. A good first event to pull people together can be a rally with one or two key speakers to share their knowledge of a casino’s impact. Be sure to spread the word about all your events using free and paid media if possible. Have signup sheets there at the door on the way in and most importantly, on the way out.
- It seems obvious but encourage your members to TALK to everyone they know and share their concerns about the casino. There is still no better vehicle for persuasion than a personal conversation with someone else.
- Create and print flyers with critical information. Remember to create the right message for the right audience. You might want to create a flyer, for example, that lists the impacts of a casino on schools then distribute it on the windshields of cars parked at school events. For examples of one community group’s flyers, refer to https://casinofreemilford.com/Papers/
- Print business cards with your logo, Facebook page, website, phone number and email address. These are cheap. Ask volunteers to go to youth sporting events and pass out business cards or flyers on cars parked at fields and local parks. Other good places to post flyers with information and event details are bulletin boards at your local libraries, grocery stores, senior centers, gyms, etc. Be sure to include your logo so people recognize the information as coming from your group.
- Recruit one or two or three people to serve as business liaisons, people who will meet with the owners and managers of local businesses and share the data on how their businesses will be adversely affected if a casino were to be built in your area. Ask these business owners for donations. Your efforts will protect their business. Go to CasinoFreeMilford.com/Papers and download “Dear Business Owner” and “What Happens to Businesses When a Casino Comes to Town” for samples of our business outreach documents.
- Develop as many educational speaking opportunities as possible, including informational forums, and talks at faith-based organizations, PTAs, service clubs like the Rotary Clubs and Kiwanis, social service organizations and chambers of commerce.
- Consider organizing a walk, a march or a car caravan with signs through the streets of your town or city.
- One community opposition group purchased a cheap “throwaway phone” with about 400 minutes to give us a phone number they felt comfortable publishing so broadly.
- Invite your local clergy to take a stand and speak out. And relatedly, develop a relationship with influential faith-based websites and social media accounts with the hope that they will post your web articles, op-eds upcoming meeting info, etc.
- Have a creative local woodworker build mobile billboards for supporters to put in their pickup trucks and drive around town and keep your message “moving!”
- If you are in a community that requires a citizen vote on the casino project, obtain an electronic copy of the voter list for the community. Then create your own voter database to track supporters and help mobilize them on election day. In today’s world, this is far easier to do than you may think. Designate 1-2 people to drive this project.
10) Use lawn signs as extensively as possible and hold stand outs. Both are a low-cost way to counter heavy pro-casino advertising and affirm the reality of wide-spread opposition.
- Print and distribute as many lawn signs as you possibly can. They are impossible to ignore. Be sure to ask homeowners and business owners located in highly trafficked areas to display them. One community group asked people to pay the $6 cost for each sign initially because they did not have the funds to cover the printing charges. Be sure to spread the word on your Facebook page and website regarding how people can ask for a sign.
- Encourage supporters to ask others in your community to put out a lawn sign and to make a donation.
- Ask people to make their own signs for stand outs and try to get as many people as possible to hold signs at all critical events. The press is much more likely to take pictures of folks holding the homemade signs rather than mass-manufactured signs. Host a sign-making party with families to make this fun and get some media attention.
- When possible, you will want to hold stand outs in front of your town hall when meetings are being held to discuss the casino issue and other well-attended community events.