Poker Players Alliance Town Hall on legalizing internet poker

July 03, 2012 3:00 AM
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The Poker Players Alliance held a Town Hall meeting last Saturday at the Rio to find out exactly where the issue of legalizing internet poker stood. The large crowd left hopeful and frustrated.

Hope came in the form of Congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas), who is a key poker supporter/player and sponsor of H.R. 2366, which he humorously called “a bad poker hand.”

Perhaps, but it’s the best deal the PPA has on the federal level. H.R. 2366 is known as the Online Poker Act that Barton candidly said could pass by the end of the year or may not pass at all.

“It’s all about timing in Washington,” said Barton, who apologized for having to exit the meeting a bit early in order to save his seat at the Bellagio poker table. “We have the bill in place. It’s just a matter of getting it on the agenda by July. It’s imperative we do that.”

Barton said if the bill isn’t placed by late July, it’s basically cooked for 2012 and perhaps beyond with all the political red tape – not to mention dealing with a possible lame duck administration after the November elections.

The positive news is the constant lobbying of the PPA has swung the sentiment more toward passage of the bill than ever before.

“Back in 2006 when Black Friday occurred, the vote was a 3-to-1 margin against,” said John Pappas, executive director of the PPA. “In the five to six years we’ve pushed for this bill, we have come close to reversing that opinion. It may not be a 3-to-1 ratio, but we have more than enough votes to get it passed.”

The problem of course is getting the bill to a vote. There is a big-time fig leaf in poker’s favor – meaning the feds are so adamant against gambling they would be willing to let poker pass through the gate in order to completely shut off any other form of gambling.

“That would be good news for poker players and the PPA, but bad news for slots and sports betting” Pappas said. “Sen. Kyl (who put together the bill against all forms of gambling) has shown a willingness to compromise on poker in exchange for toughing the opposition on other gaming.” From the state perspective, the PPA view has optimistically gone from “if it becomes legal to when.”

While Delaware, New Jersey and California are all in the fight to have poker legal statewide, Nevada is clearly the prime candidate to see it happen first. And the likely date is early 2013.

“Gov. Sandoval is behind it and we have Sen. Reid on our side,” Pappas said. “But we really want it on the federal level and having Congressman Barton take time out to be at this meeting shows how close we are coming to making it happen.”

As for now it’s up to Washington to shuffle up and deal. Until that happens, many poker players will continue leaving the U.S. in order to play without fear of penalty. And that’s costing money every day.

“This is prohibition all over again,” one attendee shouted passionately to the PPA reps. “It’s just so stupid not to be allowed to play poker online in the privacy of your home. I’m just plain sick of the way our government is run.”

Well it could be worse. You could be a resident of South Carolina where playing poker for money is illegal – period! The PPA lobby is strong, but so are the religious right and the tribes who are each dead set against the bill.

Odds are the online poker happens first in Nevada among Nevadans. Anything else to the feds at this time would be “uncivilized.”

“I’m being totally honest with you,” Barton said. “It can all happen very fast in Washington, or it could not happen at all.”