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Pappas looks to expand PPA in 2008
The Poker Players Alliance, the grassroots lobbying organization that is the voice of poker players in Washington D.C., has become a significant force in the halls of political power in the nation's capital and is only going to expand their presence in 2008, according to Executive Director John Pappas.
"2007 was certainly a huge year for us," Pappas, who took over the day-to-day leadership of the organization in the latter part of 2007, said in a conversation with PokerListings.com. "Our membership ranks swelled to almost 800,000 and we were able to get a surprising level of support from members of the House of Representatives."
Pappas indicated the Congressional support the organization received was significant.
"We're not talking about freshman members of Congress here," he said. "When you have such people as veteran House members Barney Frank and Robert Wexler garnering support for their bills, you know there is support for the poker community."
Another important step for the cause was when former Senator Alfonse D'Amato agreed to become the Chairman of the Board of Directors.
"It was a huge coup for us, with his knowledge of the Congressional system and his love for the game of poker, and we couldn't ask for a better person to represent our group," Pappas said.
As the new year (and an election year) has begun, Pappas has a distinct idea as to how the PPA will enter into 2008.
"First off, we want to continue to add to our membership. We are near one million members now, and there doesn't seem to be a plateau," Pappas said. "If there are a million supporters for the game of poker, why not 1.5 million?"
The organization is also continuing its efforts to get State Directors for every state, according to Pappas.
"In January, we sent out an e-mail to see which members might be interested in working for the PPA's efforts in each state," he said. "We expected maybe three to four hundred responses and got over 1,000! These State Directors are going to be at the forefront of many of our efforts across the U. S., from recruitment to legislative efforts."
Those efforts will also include focusing on the Congressional races taking place this year and trying to motivate the PPA's membership to get involved in the elections, Pappas said.
"We also have aggressive plans for continuing our work on Capitol Hill," he said. "We are working heavily on fine tuning Rep. Frank's bill (which calls for an overturning of the UIGEA, signed into law in 2006, and regulation of the industry) and we have continued interest in Rep. Wexler's efforts. We are also supporting Rep. Shelly Berkley's continued drive for a study into the proper action of the United States regarding online gaming."
When asked about the issues that face these different pieces of legislation, Pappas admitted that they have to earn support in the other branch of Congress.
"While we have excellent support in the House of Representatives, we need to earn some support from members of the Senate and find sponsors there to support the bills on the record," he said.
When it comes to the World Series of Poker, Pappas envisions a very prominent role for the PPA's efforts there come June.
"We want to have a booth presence there at the event, but we want to go a bit further than we have before," Pappas said. "While we want to increase our membership, we also want to provide the ability for poker players to register to vote. We want to provide the poker community with the ability to contact their representatives through an electronic mail drive as well. We also have other ideas we're working on, so stay tuned!"
One of the most important issue on Pappas' and the PPA's mind, though, is that the industry needs regulation rather than prohibition.
"Some of the events in the online world last year clearly demonstrated that a regulated industry is the best avenue," Pappas said. "It's not a question of if it will happen; it is only a question of when it will occur. It's a political impossibility to ignore the realities, that we need a regulated industry to protect the players and the game itself."
The Poker Players Alliance has many goals this year and the work, while spearheaded by Pappas, D'Amato and the State Directors, still needs the support of poker players across America. To learn more about the efforts of the PPA or to get involved with the organization, visit PokerPlayersAlliance.org.