John Pappas has been active in political consulting and policy in Washington D.C. for almost 20 years. Named as one of the most influential people in poker by Bluff magazine, you might catch John Pappas on the news debating internet gaming policy. He has appeared on several news programs including FOX News, Fox Business, CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC.
After graduating from the University of Arizona in 1977 with a B.S. in Political Science and Government, Pappas worked for Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona. Pappas spent nearly six years as the congressman’s communications director and spokesman, managing policy issues such as homeland security and e-commerce, in addition to handling the congressman’s media strategy and press inquiries.
In 2007, Pappas began working as a public affairs consultant at Washington public relations firm, Dittus Communications. During his time with the PR firm Pappas served as an advisor for dozens of companies, organization, and trade associations. By the time he left the firm in 2007, Pappas held the title of Vice President.
In May 2007, Pappas took a full-time position as vice president of government affairs for the Poker Players Alliance (PPA). The PPA is a non-profit membership organization which represents both online and offline poker players across the United States. The organization fights for players rights to a secure, safe, and regulated place to play poker through advocacy work with lawmakers, the media, and the public.
When PPA executive director Michael Bolcerek stepped down in August 2007, Pappas took his place as executive director of the organization. As the PPA’s executive director, Pappas is responsible for overall operations management as well as state and federal lobbying. He advocates, on behalf of one million PPA members, for regulated poker in states across the country, as well as at a federal level in the United States Congress.
Pappas, along with the PPA, has been pushing for the legislation and regulation of all forms of online gaming. “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,” said Pappas.
Pappas testifies on behalf of the poker player community in state hearings discussing online poker legislation. With online poker legislation already passed in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, the PPA hopes to see legislation passed in Pennsylvania, California and New York in the near future.
Pappas and the PPA support Rep. Joe Barton of Texas’ “The Internet Poker Freedom Act” which seeks to protect state’s 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 defeat of the “Restoration of America’s Wire Act” (RAWA) is the current number one priority of Pappas and the PPA. RAWA, backed by billionaire Las Vegas Sands Casino Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, is a huge threat to poker players nationwide, as it attempts to ban all forms of online gaming at the federal level. The bill offers no exemption for online poker. If RAWA were to be passed, playing poker online would be prohibited across the nation, even in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, which currently offer licensed and regulated online poker within their state borders.
“Every Congress to consider Internet gaming legislation has preserved the right of states to protect its citizens through a system that is accountable to regulators and the government,” said Pappas. “Attempting to re-write history through a piece of legislation that prohibits states from enacting these safeguards represents 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 RAWA gained little support in Congress in 2014, Adelson and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah are back and working on passing an updated version of the bill which offers carveouts for online horse betting, online daily fantasy sports betting , and close-circuit online betting such as systems such as those in place in Adelson’s casinos in Nevada. No such carveout is in place for online poker.
Although Pappas and the PPA do not promote banning online casino games, they would consider sacrificing casino games in order to secure online poker legislation. When it comes to legislation that bans online casino games but legalizes online poker at a federal level, Pappas has said that the PPA would support it, “if there was a bill that banned online casino games, but legalized online poker at the federal level, we would support that all day long.”
Many hope that it doesn’t come to that – and that Pappas and the PPA can succeed in crushing RAWA and getting legislation passed that legalizes and regulates online poker, as well as other online gaming, at a federal level.