PPA board takes on Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006

Jul 12, 2011 3:05 AM

Shuffle up and appeal has been more like the Poker Players Alliance motto ever since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 was passed.

But over the last five years the PPA board, which includes a former United States Senator and several well known poker pros, has chipped away at the law to the point where it’s considered better than 50-50 it will be overturned as early as next year.

"From a legislative view, things are progressing well," PPA Executive Chairman John Pappas told GamingToday last week at the World Series of Poker. "We have bi-partisan support and a growing consensus in Washington that the PPA is the right approach to better protecting the consumers."

Pappas was at the PPA booth in the vast Rio Convention Center area just outside the WSOP venue, not so much to recruit members as to explain that the 2006 federal legislation to ban financial institutions from making payments to Internet gambling sites needs to be overturned.

"We have offices all over the U.S. and a home base in Washington, D.C.," Pappas said of the Association, which now numbers 1.2 million members. "What better place to get our message out than right here at the WSOP?"

The PPA is an American nonprofit interest group designed to promote poker and protect the players’ rights. Phil Ivey, one of the iconic figures in poker, has spoken on behalf of the PPA in Washington and is sitting out the WSOP main event in protest of both the current legislation and the recent seizure of poker sites Full Tilt, PokerStars and Absolute Poker, and the endictment of some of their employees.

"Years ago the opposition came from moralists, but now the challenge is gaining competitive balance," Pappas said. "Others like the tribes and offshore want control. Now, however, with our alliance we have a much stronger grass roots network and lawmakers are taking our side."

Outspoken politicians like ex-Senator Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) and Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) have helped push legislation against the 2006 law, but as Pappas lamented, "it’s a slow process. Congress does not act swiftly."

That may be the understatement of the decade.

You have to go back to 2007 when Frank introduced a bill that would not only repeal the 2006 bill, but open up a U.S. based market for online gambling.

The battle became more uphill prior to the 2009 WSOP when the Southern District of New York seized $34 million from over 27,000 accounts of poker players affiliated with Full Tilt, Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet and Poker Stars. Nothing has happened since.

The PPA fought back with a "Fly-In," where around 100 members and many professional poker players, including board members Annie Duke, Howard Lederer, and Chris Ferguson, flew to Washington to lobby Congress for poker rights. Still nothing.

"We feel good about our chances to overturn the 2006 legislation," Pappas said. "You can see the popularity of poker right here. This has to happen."