PPA to Fight for All Online Gambling, Not Just Poker

Posted on October 10th, 2014 by Alana Markoff
Harry Reid and PPA lame duck poker bill

John Pappas of the PPA believes that online poker could be in trouble if Harry Reid is no longer the Senate Majority Leader next year. (Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) says that it will fight a rumored online gambling bill that could be debated during the lame duck session in Congress after November’s elections, and that an exemption for poker wouldn’t be enough to stop the organization from backing off.

This is a change of heart for the PPA, which once found such bills, that allowed poker but prohibited online casino games, acceptable.

“We as a poker community need to recognize that the success of poker often is built on other forms of gambling,” said PPA executive director John Pappas. “If you cut off all other games in the US market, investment and interest would shrink considerably.”

Poker Small Piece of Gambling Pie

Pappas’ point is based on the fact that poker makes up just a small percentage of the revenues being brought in by online gambling in the states that allow both poker and casino games on the Internet. For instance, poker makes up just 20 percent of the revenues brought in on New Jersey‘s online gambling site.

“We’re going to fight tooth and nail to protect the interests of poker players, but poker-only in the US might not be a sustainable model to benefit players long term,” Pappas said.

Rumors of a potential lame-duck online gambling bill have been circulating lately, with the story being discussed by some panelists at the C5 US Online Gaming Forum last month. While many believe that such a bill would have difficulty passing even in the lame-duck session, some still expect legislators to attempt it.

Rumored Deal Between Reid and Adelson

The bill may be related to another rumor that made the rounds this summer. According to that story, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) had reached a deal with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to keep the major Republican donor from funding candidates during the 2014 Senate elections. The truth of that story is in doubt, as there have been reports of Adelson planning to spend as much as $100 million to help GOP candidates, though those reports have also been denied by members of his political team.

But regardless of the truth behind any Reid-Adelson pact, there is certainly worry from some that a “poker-only” bill could come to a vote during the upcoming lame duck session. Given that there’s essentially no hope for a federal regulatory bill that would establish a national online poker framework, that leaves little good that could happen for poker players after Election Day.

“I think the way the industry is developing, our best-case scenario is for Congress to do nothing during the lame duck,” Pappas said. “There’s certainly opportunity for some shenanigans to happen, and everyone in the gaming industry should be keeping a close watch on what Congress may do.”

Though most analysts say that such a bill would still have little chance of passing during the lame duck session, that situation could change in 2015. There is a reasonable chance, perhaps slightly better than 50/50, that Republicans could take control of the Senate in the upcoming elections. That would set up a situation in which Reid would no longer be in a position to stop anti-gambling legislation.

“Should the Republicans take hold of the Senate and Reid is no longer the majority leader, I think that puts poker in an even more precarious position,” Pappas said.

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