PPA Says Fight For Online Poker Just Beginning

John Pappas
PPA Executive Director John Pappas.

While it applauds the Department of Justice for entering into an agreement with PokerStars and Full Tilt to allow U.S. players to cashout, the Poker Players Alliance says the the fight to protect American’s freedom to play poker online is not over.

Friday, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney charged the principals of three of online poker's biggest sites with bank fraud, illegal gambling and laundering billions of dollars.

In all, 11 defendants were charged, including PokerStars' Isai Scheinberg, Fill Tilt Poker's Ray Bitar and Absolute Poker's Scott Tom.

The Internet domain names used by PokerStars, Full Tilt, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet were seized and began redirecting to a message from the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI.

Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the office had entered into an agreement with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker to release the domain names and allow U.S. players to register for refund requests directly with the sites.

And while the site's now say they are looking for a way to process U.S. cashouts, poker advocacy group the PPA says the fight goes on.

“The poker players have spoken, and it seems the U.S. Government has heard their cries," said PPA Executive Director John Pappas. "But players are still in pain. While (Wednesday's) action allows players on two of the three online poker sites to access their funds, this is just a small victory in the ongoing fight to protect Americans’ rights to play poker online.

"Even with (Wednesday's) announcement, millions of Americans are being denied their hobby, avocation and in many cases their livelihood because they remain unable to play poker on the Internet."

Pappas said PPA members have sent more than 65,000 emails and letters to the Department of Justice, the Administration and Congress demanding access to the money in their online accounts and condemning what it calls a "declaration of war on poker."

“Online poker players have been the true victims of the DoJ’s action, and it is good to see the DoJ recognizing that fact and working with Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars to get players their money," he said. "Yet, the fight to protect American’s freedom to play poker online is not over.

“Now more than ever, poker players are uniting against the vague laws that continue to obstruct their right to play this game of skill in any format. Americans from all walks of life enjoy this great game, from stay at home moms to disabled veterans to the thousands of average Americans who earn or supplement their income through online poker winnings and they continue to tell their stories through online forums, the media, and calls and letters to Congress.

“The message they are sending is clear – at a time of such economic weakness in the U.S., citizens expect their government to be wholly focused on improving their way of life through job and revenue creation, not attacking their personal activities. Congress needs to recognize the benefit of licensing and regulating online poker to protect players’ rights while adding thousands of jobs and billions in revenue to the U.S. market."

The PPA says online poker is not illegal and the government should stop treating poker players like criminals.

"Congress has two choices: Either pass legislation to license and regulate online poker to provide much needed support to the U.S. economy, while offering a safe and stable environment for millions of Americans to play poker, or ignore millions of their constituents and pay the price at the polls in 2012.

"The answer is clear. Congress must listen to its citizens and take necessary action to license and regulate online poker – we know it, Congress knows it, and millions of Americans are demanding it.”

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