The Federalist PPAers

Taking DC’s cause to the states

by , Feb 25, 2010 | 5:45 am

The PPA was in Massachusetts this week, testifying before a joint committee on behalf of H4069, which would classify poker as a game of skill — apparently important as that state considers a variety of casino-related legislation.

Go Massachusetts Skillaments, but elsewhere, far more is at stake for states that could care less about the nuances of what is and is not technically gambling amongst avowed gamblers. Thus, PPA Executive Director John Pappas has been crisscrossing the country addressing states considering intrastate online poker, trying to persuade them not to muddy the online semi-gambling waters with legislation that comes to the table inherently flawed, legally and from a competitive market standpoint.

Pappas was in Florida last week, addressing a Senate committee on regulated industries. Florida, as we know, has been working on more and more legal poker for the past five or six years with much success, so why not extend that to the internet? Well, Pappas explains, because problems needing fixin’ at the federal level first. Without it, anything any one state creates, he says, automatically will exist in a a legal gray area that could be challenged in a variety of federal ways. And because of this gray area, and the way poker works, regulated “state monopoly” sites will struggle to compete against the unregulated likes of Full Tilt and PokerStars. (He doesn’t mention those sites by name, but players know that’s who he’s talking about.)

It’s an important argument to begin honing, because right now we have California and Florida moving aggressively in the intrastate direction — supposedly with Iowa and Wyoming about to jump on the bandwagon. Legislation can be a rather cut-and-paste enterprise these days, so if those four states go, then it’s only a matter of time before some 40+ others follow suit, which could undermine, or at least complicate, years of work on by poker’s favorite grassroots advocacy group.

Have a listen. In addition to bringing the California arguments to Florida, for the first time we hear the PPA start to lay out some of the details on how internet poker taxation would work under either the Frank or Menendez bills — with provisions included for individual states to receive their revenue share from the federal regulatory system. We also learn of a new organization — the Poker Voters of America — that has effectively brought the idea of intrastate online poker to the Florida legislature. On its surface, the PVA doesn’t look too different from the PPA. But strategically, they’re fighting the UIGEA in a much different way. Well-meaning but misguided is the gist; can we have your donor list?

I’m not sure I’m making the case here any better than Pappas is. We know what he’s saying, of course … no, man, don’t go the Italian monopoly route … go poker, but that’s no good!

But you can see how statewide advocacy groups could be hearing, “Yo, don’t fuck with our shit dudes! This is our turf here!” To which the Floridians would say, You’ve had long enough and gotten us nowhere. Our state needs money now, so we’re gonna go it alone while you figure your federal shit out. Yeah, I like it. Do you know how much our state could make just as an affiliate!?!

Ultimately, the reason to eschew the intrastate model is the same reason a guy like Ron Paul supports the PPA-backed federal bills … because we believe in free markets and open markets. Anything else is detrimental to the American economy. But with the kinda money at stake and shady people we’ve all smelt at the table, we can’t have financial anarchy. So the way for us to make this work in a way that protects American freedoms and makes fiscal sense is to have the PokerStars/Full Tilt model … all the people in the world able to sit at the same table and play a game. (I like to think of it as the online poker=world peace model.) But you simply can’t have it with any state trying to limit the behavior of its citizens within its borders as if it were China or Kentucky. If I’m in Florida and want to play legal online poker, why can’t I play against a guy in Swtzerland looking to do the same thing? And it’s downright unAmerican if I can’t compete against a Texan!

ALT HED: Something about the Commerce Clause #nottobeconfusedwithCommerceCasino

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