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PPA hails D.C. trip as a success
It was a big week for online poker in Washington D.C. this week as nearly 100 Poker Players Alliance members converged on Capitol Hill for a conference and to talk with legislators about online gaming.
"By all accounts the Washington Fly-In and policy conference was a huge success, and we made a significant impression on Congress and the media," said John Pappas, PPA executive director, in a recap about the event.
The poker supporters spent three days lobbying and participating in talks about online gambling. During those days, they met with nearly 50 members of the U.S. House and Senate to defend their right to play poker online.
"We were armed with the message that poker is a game of skill which should be regulated, not prohibited - and we successfully delivered that message," Pappas said. "Several of our meetings resulted in commitments of support and co-sponsorship of H.R. 2046 and H.R. 2610."
Some of the talking points they used to express their opinions included:
- Technology has progressed to effectively combat problem gambling and ensure that players are of legal age.
- Billions in potential tax revenue from online poker are being lost under the UIGEA.
- Appropriate federal regulation can ensure that minors are kept out of sites, services are provided to problem gamblers and the proper taxes are collected.
- Prohibitions don't work. The UIGEA effectively bans online poker in the U.S. and drives those players underground. Meanwhile, poker continues to grow in popularity nationwide. Seventy-five percent of Americans oppose banning online poker.
- If Congress allows me to bet on horses and state lotteries online, why can't I play a skill game like poker with other consenting adults?
The PPA members on hand to talk about the issues included top names in the poker world such as Barry Greenstein and Howard Lederer. The PPA Fly-In garnered quite a bit of media attention, including an interview with Greenstein in the Baltimore Sun about his involvement.
"The Internet gives people an easier way to play," said Greenstein in the Sun article. "They don't have to get six or seven buddies to come over to their house. They can play with people, not only from around the country, but around the world. You sit down at the poker table on the Internet, you're playing with someone who lives in Lebanon or somewhere else... It's really an international game."
Lederer was a big part of the PPA's policy forum, "Poker: Public Policy, Politics, Skill and the Future of the American Tradition," on Wednesday. He and Charles Nesson, Radley Balko and Kenneth Adams led the discussion as participants took a look at the political future of poker.
"The consensus? Poker players must become politically aware, register to vote and make their voices heard in debates and elections," Pappas said.
He also said one of the highlights of the conference was the Tuesday night reception on Capitol Hill where more than 150 staffers and PPA members gathered together to talk poker.
"It was awesome," Pappas said. "Even better, eight members of Congress attended the reception, including Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), to show their support for the PPA. I have worked in Washington for a long time, and I can tell you how difficult it is to get members of Congress to show up to these types of events. It is a testament to the many hours the PPA has spend building our credibility with lawmakers."
Overall, Pappas considers the three days in Washington D.C. time well spent as the organization helped up the ante in the poker players' fight for regulation of online poker and federal support for it as a game of skill.
"On behalf of our chairman, Senator Alfonse D'Amato, I want to thank the dedicated PPA members and PPA state representatives who joined us in Washington," Pappas said. "Without you, this could not have been accomplished. Senator D'Amato has always said that our membership is our strongest voice in Washington, and this week you really proved it."
For more information about the PPA, visit their Web site at PokerPlayersAlliance.org.