In between all the hustle and bustle of tournament coverage, I had the opportunity this weekend to catch up with PPA Executive Director John Pappas and ask him about his organization's new voter registration campaign and its efforts to change Congress' mind on the issues surrounding the legality of the game.
Tell our readers about the booth you have set up here outside the Amazon Room and what you're hoping to accomplish this summer.
The PPA has kicked off what we're calling the "If You Play, Have a Say" campaign. What we mean by that is that if you play poker, you've got to have a say in the political process. The best way to do that is registering to vote and becoming an active voter.
People can come to our voter registration Web site (www.poker2008.org) and they can very easily fill out a voter registration form from their state, send it in the mail, and they're a registered voter. It's really the first important step poker players should take to become involved in the political process.
Obviously it's just a few days into the World Series, but what has the response been so far?
We've been hearing a lot of people saying "We know who you are; I'm already a member." We're explaining to them that we're not here to sign up new people, we're here to turn people into advocates. So at our booth we're letting people send e-mails to Congress that say, "I'm at the WSOP, I'm a poker player, I'm a voter, and I care about my rights to play poker."
We have a targeted letter, and we're allowing them to register to vote right here at the booth. We also have a petition we're going to dump on Congress sometime in September. We're going to try to get as many signatures between now and September as possible and dump that on the doorstep of Congress.
We've had a real positive reaction so far. Actually I looked online today, where we track how many letters are sent through our system - we had over 200 letters sent today, which is not bad considering a lot of the time you're stopping someone who just took a bad beat [laughs] and the last thing they're thinking about is sending a letter to Congress.
But you know, we've had a lot of people really step up to the plate, and I think it's only going to get better as time goes on. And we have the great help of volunteers, members of the PPA who live in the state of Nevada, who are helping us keep the booth fully staffed for the full six weeks.
And are you going to have any players already on board with PPA stopping by?
We sure are. All the way from June 6 through July 6, every single day that there is tournament action, at 4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. there will be a top professional poker player at our booth signing autographs.
Do you have any particular goals with this campaign or are you just getting the message out?
I think it's just getting the message out, getting people registered to vote and to send letters to Congress. We want them to know that this is a legitimate organization that cares about and is fighting for their right to play poker. We're really the only ones who are in Washington trying to defend the game.
Good luck, John, and thanks.
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When Congress snuck the UIGEA through in late 2006, poker players were caught unaware mostly because they had no voice in Washington. The PPA has been trying to fill that role and their efforts don't appear to be going unnoticed. If you're at the WSOP and you spend any time thinking about the impact politics has on the game you love, it's worth stopping by the PPA booth to see what they're doing.