Poker Players Alliance (PPA)

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The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) is a membership organization, founded in 2005, that serves to represent the interests of poker players across the United States. In the organizations the first year it signed up over 600,000 members. The PPA, which has now grown to over one million members, functions as the unified voice of American poker players. The non-profit organization relies on donations from poker enthusiasts and members of the gaming industry to receive the financial support necessary to accomplish its mission.

The chairman of the PPA Board of Directors is lawyer, lobbyist, FoxNews analyst, and former U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato. D’Amato served in the Senate from 1981 to 1999 before joining the PPA board of directors. Long-time Washington D.C. political consultant and policy advisor John Pappas serves as Executive Director of the PPA. Other members of the PPA’s Board of Directors include professional poker player Linda Johnson, Vice President of Player Relations Rich Muny, lawyer and World Series of Poker Champ Greg Raymer, and Litigation Support Director Patrick Fleming.

The PPA has four full-time staff members in Washington D.C. and California: Executive Director John Pappas, IT Manager Randy Lau, Director of Membership and PokerPAC Bryan Spadaro, and Director of Advocacy and Social Media Dave McGoldrick. Through advocacy work with lawmakers at the state and federal level, the media, and the public, the PPA works to educate, raise awareness, and promote policy that benefits and protects the game and its players, both at the tables and online.

The PPA maintains that poker is a game of skill, as opposed to a game of chance. Their argument cites countless academics and legal scholars who support their view, as well as the fact that poker involves such skills as mathematics, psychology, money management, and assessing the competition.

Under current legislation, playing poker online is only regulated in 3 U.S. states: Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Players in states where the game is not regulated are forced to play on unregulated online poker sites. Unregulated sites, operated by offshore entities, are known to shut down, taking the funds in players’ accounts along with them. Players have lost thousands and thousands of dollars, and there are no government regulations in place to protect them. Furthermore, unregulated online poker sites are not audited for fairness and have nothing to stop them from swindling their players.

The PPA works to protect poker players from these shady unregulated poker sites by fighting for a policy regulating online gaming. Former Executive Director of the PPA, Michael Bolcerek, explained that an online poker prohibition would not solve anything:

“Opponents of online gambling fail to realize that sweeping it under the rug will only serve to exacerbate any issues with problem gambling. Turning the wildly popular Internet poker from a common pastime to illegal activity, banned by Congress, will ultimately ensure that problem gamblers do not confront their issues with gambling and drive them further underground. Regulation and taxation, however, would provide billions in revenue for federal and state governments. These funds could be used to treat problem gamblers and to educate adults and youths alike on the dangers of gambling addictions.”

John Pappas, as current executive director of the PPA, fights for the right’s of poker players nationwide by traveling across the county testifying in state hearings on behalf of the interests of the poker player community. Pappas argues, “online poker licensing and regulation is the only way to ensure consumers are protected and Americans who want to play poker online, have a safe way to do so.”

The PPA supports Rep. Joe Barton of Texas’ “The Internet Poker Freedom Act” which aims to protect individual state’s 10th Amendment right to regulate and license online poker within their state borders, as well as provide a federal framework which would allow for interstate play.

The PPA’s current number one priority is to defeat the “Restoration of America’s Wire Act” (RAWA), which seeks to ban online gaming at the federal level. The bill aims to overturn the 2011 Department of Justice ruling on the scope of the 1961 Wire Act. The Department of Justice ruled that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting, and does not apply to other forms of wagering, such as online poker. Since the 2011 ruling, individual states have been free to express their 10th Amendment rights and decide whether they will permit online gaming. Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey have all since opened up online poker within their borders to regulated and licensed poker sites run by top US online gambling companies.

RAWA is backed by billionaire Las Vegas Sands chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. The big-time GOP donor has been a strong, if not the strongest, an opponent of online gaming, and vows to “spend whatever it takes” to ban it at the federal level. Adelson argues that while gambling at his brick-and-mortar casinos is acceptable, gambling online is a “so­ci­et­al train wreck wait­ing to hap­pen.”

The PPA will be the first to point out the hypocrisy in Adelson’s position on online gaming. During the 2014 G2E gaming industry conference the PPA tweeted, “Adelson compares internet gaming to legalizing marijuana and other drugs. Forgets he owns a casino,” and later, “Adelson says the working class and lower class will be exploited by internet gaming. Again, forgetting he owns casinos.” -@ppapoker.

Plus, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that a federal ban on online gaming would prove to be a huge financial benefit for Adelson as it would knock out his brick-and-mortar casino’s competition. With players unable to play poker online from the comfort of their own home, they would have to visit a physical casino, perhaps one of the 4 Alderson owns, to play the game. Pappas describes the push for RAWA as “the worst kind of crony capitalism that favors a mega political campaign donor over what’s in the best interest of the states and their consumers.”

Although Adelson’s bill did not gain much support in Congress in the past, an updated version of the bill which offers exemptions for online daily fantasy sports betting, horse betting, and close-circuit betting is being pushed in Congress in 2015. If RAWA were to pass, online gaming, including online poker, would be prohibited across the country, even in the 3 states in which it is currently permitted.

Over a million members strong, the PPA will continue to fight for the interests of America poker players, in state capitols as well as in Congress, to establish a secure, safe, and regulated place to play poker both offline as well as online.

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