The PPA Wants (Needs?) Your Money

Poker politicos seeking buy-in to Washington DC Big Game

by , Jun 30, 2010 | 8:12 pm

A lot of different groups seem to have their fingers in the online gambling/poker pie these days. Kinda funny, because right now most Obama-admin efforts seem to be about stopping it, or at least making the process of winning a main event seat on PokerStars more difficult.

Yet at the same time, momentum in Congressional circles seems to be going the other way — with more money being spent on online gambling-related lobbying than ever before, and not coincidentally, a growing number of congressfolk suddenly on board with the cause.

But when it comes to hammering out a future for our specific special interest — licensed and regulated online poker — the Poker Players Alliance is hardly the only group claiming to speak on our behalf. The AGA, iMega, various Native American interests, the NTRA (horse racing) and the American Horse Council … they all want seats at the lawmaking table, too. However, the PPA is the only group specifically focussed on poker, that was built by poker players, and operates in Washington DC with poker community and industry interests foremost in mind.

Thus …

The PPA Poker Moneybomb

On July 1st, the PPA will be launching an unprecedented 1-day fundraising drive with the goal of raising $50,000 in support of our advocacy and grassroots efforts. We are asking all loyal poker supporters to make a donation to the PPA — even if it’s just $5 — on July 1st.

Love or hate Obama-driven reform, with health care out of the way, “financial overhaul” is next on the agenda. And the man spearheading this effort is poker’s ole friend Barney Frank, who has the ability and interest to make sure online gambling is — or is not — part of that political conversation.

Supposedly financial overhaul isn’t gonna be some years-long endeavor like health care; instead Congress is ready to push things along as quickly as possible, getting the main bill to Obama’s desk in like a month, they say … or at least before November’s elections.

That’s why the PPA (imho) is circling its financial wagons now in preparation for a “surge” … and why poker players should want to help them.

You can be sure that online casino, online sports betting, Indian tribe, state lottery, and even right-wing morality-based special interest groups are all ready to deploy their resources as needed. And while the PPA has shown with its million-plus social-media-savvy membership that it can be one of the loudest advocacy groups among them … at four years old they are still the smallest financially and least-established in DC circles of influence.

So while the PPA has vociferously made the anti-UIGEA case since its inception, now that Washington is ready to move on related matters, there are plenty of folks claiming to be poker allies who’d be more than happy to take over from here — and not necessarily because they envision the same licensed and regulated online poker future that you do.

As the messy business of re-writing law, bargaining for amendments, and negotiating line-item compromise heats up in July, this could prove to be a critical time. And the last thing poker players should want now is to see the PPA stuck at the kiddie table.

Again, PPA Poker Moneybomb, July 1 … pretty sure this is how the big kids do it. Click here to insta-donate.

8 Comments to “The PPA Wants (Needs?) Your Money ”

  1. Grange95

    The PPA:

    a) has accomplished exactly nothing of note to date, either legislatively or in litigation; and

    b) has serious conflicts of interest between the interests of its Board of Directors (dominated by Full Tilt and PokerStars reps) and the interests of its membership of online poker players.

    Frankly, the gaming industry groups and the gaming behemoths (Harrah’s, MGM, etc.) probably are more effective and better represent the interests of most online poker players than the PPA.

  2. DanM

    I hear ya Grange. I’ve had my reservations about the PPA all along the way, too.

    But …

    a) you are wrong and being unfair. lots of examples in the states. you know minnesota was about to go the kentucky route, and the PPA single-handedly turned them around 180 degrees legislatively? right now the supreme court in washington state is considering the constitutionality of their anti-online poker law. all the doing of the PPA’s Washington State director. i actually worked with them directly in Texas to assemble a panel to persuade Pete Sessions to get behind the cause, and though personally i think Pokeratizens had more to do with the success of getting Sessions’ skill game bill created, that meeting never coulda happened without the PPA.

    Just because no bill has been passed yet doesn’t mean they’ve done nothing. Like I said, they are upstart in the lobbying game. They may not have the best team on the field, but they are who we’ve got!

    b) I might agree with you on that one. Any reader here knows I have no hard love for Stars or Tilt, and by no means cater to their whims any more than I suck at their teats … but I do have to acknowledge that these two sites have helped build the poker world (online and live) that we all currently live in. And thus I want them to at least have a say that means something when various bills are being discussed.

    The AGA is the group representing Big Casinos (Harrah’s, MGM, et al). And they, frankly, are the ones who concern me. They could really make something happen if they wanted to. But then we have to remember that they were on the other side back in 2006 … using their resources to help get the UIGEA passed.

    Believe me, I’m not saying the PPA is the end-all-be-all. And I often disagree with their strategies. And without a doubt, it’s only a matter of time before their opponents put two and two together (2+2, lol) and start raising questions about the cleanliness of their funding.

    But as things stand now the PPA is who poker players have got with any influence in Washington DC. So thus I want to support them. Would you rather have NO ONE at the table who is unequivocally looking out for poker-specific interests? Offer up a better alternative and I could begin championing their efforts instead.

    Kinda funny … just read your piece, and as I was, I got an email from the PPA telling me about their goal of $25k. The original one I got said $50k. In Beltway circles, the PPA are clearly the Bad News Bears. But that’s why you gotta root for them, no? If you don’t believe in what they are trying to push, I can see why you might want to flat-out try to destroy them to prevent them from corrupting the game. But if you do agree in principal, you gotta want to help.

    This is a long-term, multi-decade fight. The PPA will evolve. They have so far … they started out just four years ago from someone’s home office in San Francisco. Now they have three full-timers in DC. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Just ask NORML about the importance of baby steps.

    To me it sounds like your frustration is with the relative infancy of the PPA. So great, let’s try to go with a political group that is more mature … like the AGA. Oh, wait, right, refer to the above, they haven’t exactly done much to help so far either.

    I’ll respect your desire to dissent, but personally, I don’t think poker players should throw the baby out with the bath water.

  3. Wolynski

    You’re right – better the PPA than nothing.

    But it’s all too complicated. Why does online poker need licensing and regulation? Party Poker was fair and square when I played there. Is E-Bay licensed and regulated? Or the strippers one can order?

    The thing is, no one owns the Internet and the Government has no jurisdiction – it’s a buyer beware free-for-all. You can get ripped off on E-Bay just as easily as on a fly-by-night poker site, except that poker players will sound the alarm on various forums.

    It’s not about poker, but the freedom of the Internet.

  4. Kevin Mathers

    Wouldn’t the AGA now being for online poker regulation be considered as them doing something?

  5. DanM

    Maybe so, but who are they doing it for? Certainly not any of the sites Americans currently play on. Are we sure the AGA really cares about poker first though, or might they throw poker under the bus if necessary to see online slots and roulette happen first? Not saying that is their plan, but so far all we’ve seen from them is limited support at best on behalf of MGM and Harrah’s.

    If they can get Harry Reid to greenlight the Barney Frank or Jim McDermott bill maybe … but then did they really need financial assistance from poker players?

  6. Grange95

    Mr. Michalski,

    I think the PPA is a great idea in concept, but the execution seems terribly flawed. I did actually watch the Rousso v. Washington oral arguments and read the appellate briefs, which I covered in a prior blog post, and I have read the appellate briefs and decisions in the other state cases where the PPA had a role (and analyzed those arguments in other blog posts). To be blunt, the PPA legalization-by-litigation strategy has left poker in a demonstrably weaker position, not just in those states, but in other states whose courts will look to those decisions as legal authority if/when they confront the issue. (I will add a caveat that the Rousso case involves a different sort of legal argument from the “poker is a game of skill” cases, and I think there’s at least a puncher’s chance of success).

    I think the PPA could have a significant role to play in two arenas—public relations and legislative lobbying. But on the legislative side, I really have two major concerns. First, what exactly are the priorities of the PPA on the slicing and dicing of the various proposals? It isn’t enough to throw out some platitudes about “protecting poker” or “legalizing poker”, the PPA needs to let members know where it stands on some of the key nitty-gritty details. Off the top of my head:

    * Will individual states be able to opt out of online gaming?
    * Will the federal government regulate online gaming, or let the states do so? If it’s the states, will the feds require reciprocity re licensing and other regulatory decisions?
    * Will the feds tax deposits, the rake, or company profits, or some combination thereof?
    * Will states be allowed to levy taxes on top of federal taxes?
    * What type of income tax reporting/withholding will be required of online sites for their players?
    * What limits, if any, will be placed on deposits and player funds transfers?

    Obviously the PPA won’t get its way on every issue, but the PPA should at least tell its members what its preferences are with respect to the nuts and bolts of the various proposals. Or, if the PPA is essentially lobbying for legalization and doesn’t much care about the details, they should tell their members that, as well.

    The second major issue I have with the PPA’s role in the current legislative debate is the strong probability (noted by you, in fact) that Harrah’s and other major brick-and-mortar players might want to include a “poison pill” provision in legislation that would essentially shut out of the market current online poker sites. What happens if Harry Reid or Barney Frank come to the PPA and say, “Senator D’Amato, I think we can get an online poker bill passed, but some key votes need a provision that lets them look tough on the current companies that are violating state and federal law. What’s the PPA’s position on a provision barring from licensing any online site found to have violated state or federal laws related to gaming or money transfers for a period of ten years?” When Senator D’Amato turns to the PPA Board of Directors, and sees three directors (at least) with a financial stake in rejecting such a poison pill provision, what’s going to happen? Will the PPA back the provision (as most online poker players would want), or will the PPA take the position that a poison pill provision is a deal-killer (the position of PokerStars and Full Tilt)? Or, even if a poison pill provision never makes it into a proposal, will the fact that members of the PPA’s leadership are associated with companies that currently operate (at least arguably) in violation of various state and federal laws hurt the effectiveness of the PPA’s lobbying efforts?

    I think the PPA could grow into an important organization. I’m just troubled that the PPA, in its current form, may actually undermine the poker legalization process.

  7. DanM

    Grange, very solid response. I will have to chew on this one for a bit. Your six bullet points, are extremely valid questions, and i think we know the answers to some of them:

    1) yes. they have offered an opt-out to the states for a long time.

    2) federal, for sure. the PPA has made no bones about that — see pappas’ testimony at a committee hearing in florida about their proposed intrastate online gambling bill.

    3-6) I think this is the stuff they’ve been hammering out in the McDermott bill. I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I know this is the kinda stuff that is being addressed, and usually with a solid answer, or at least a “we’ll look into it and get back to you” … not necessarily from the PPA, but from the Members they are talking to almost daily to help get the bills in passable condition.

  8. Grange95

    Thanks for the information re some of the PPA’s positions. I just wish the PPA did a better job of communicating those positions clearly to their members. This isn’t the forum to debate the merits of various legalization options, but the reason I brought up the points I did is that those are issues where the PPA may need to make tactical decisions that will disappoint some of its members. The PPA’s members deserve to know what the options are, what the PPA ideally wants, and if the PPA has to abandon an ideal, why.

    For example, the state opt out issue. Ideally, the PPA would want full legalization. In reality, you probably can’t get a bill passed without an opt out for certain states that don’t want online poker. The PPA undoubtedly has members in those states who will be wondering why the PPA signed on to a proposal that leaves them out in the cold.

    Or, the regulation issue. Federal regulation is ideal, but implementation will be a tough sell. You would need a new agency subdivision, which would anger small government types. You would encroach on the state’s historical right to regulate gaming, likely costing other supporters. But if you throw regulation to the states, you risk winding up with a patchwork of inconsistent regulations.

    Obviously, the devil is in the details. I think the PPA owes its members a little better communication about those details