Calm before WSOP Main Event at the Rio in Las Vegas

Jul 2, 2013 3:02 AM

Note: In last week’s part we focused on the history of the PPA and their interest in the World Series of Poker as a way to broaden their membership, now over 1.2 million. This week, the big fight: legalized online poker nationally.

We’ve been down this road before and probably will be traveling this way again, and again, and probably again in this decade.

“Every day we are a little bit closer,” said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance during his annual trek to the Rio – home of the World Series of Poker. “Nevada was the first state to have an operational site. New Jersey and Delaware have also licensed it.”

And there’s where the rub comes. Last year during a major news conference at the WSOP, past champion Greg Raymer delivered his views in full support of the Alliance and their fight to lobby the good ol’ boys in Washington to make online betting for poker legal nationally.

No news conference this year, but that doesn’t mean the fight has slackened. If anything, the PPA is more determined and aligned than ever to see this through.

“New Jersey expects not only poker but fullscale Internet gaming by Thanksgiving,” Pappas said “Real money. Everything but sports books. (Gov. Chris) Christie has already signed on it (the bill). Done. It’s just a matter of getting the site up and running. We would rather they get it right, rather than be out there fast.”

Gaming Today columnist Phil Hevener mentioned in his article last week that Nevada may be several more years away from adding more games to the Internet menu. At least the state does have Station Casinos to thank for being ahead of the curve with its Ultimate Gaming poker site, which the Gaming Control Board recently approved for live in-state wagering.

“Ultimate Poker took it beyond the theoretical,” Pappas said. “This is reality. We’re glad they are up and running.”

That’s all well and good for Station, but the rest of Nevada casinos and players across the country are at the mercy of the feds and the state governments until some type of positive action is taken. And you know how slow the political process is.

“At the federal level you see the inability of Congress to do very much about anything,” said Richard Muny, PPA vice president of player relations and member of the PPA board of directors. “The Internet is well down on the list of national priorities. We are not going to be the first thing lawmakers think about when they wake up in the morning.”

Still, there is some reason for optimism. The New Jersey bill has become law, regulations have been written and the public comment period is ongoing. The thinking is implementation will occur sometime prior to Thanksgiving. And, New Jersey could sign compacts with states where Internet gambling is legal, such as Nevada and Delaware “To be legal federally would be better,” Muny said. “This way law doesn’t have to go the state-by-state route. The tangible answer is we are closer. It’s going to happen.”

Of course, it was thought this would have been done last year so Thanksgiving could be wishful thinking.

“The deadline could move,” Muny said. “We hope it doesn’t but it wouldn’t be a surprise. For the future I look for us continuing on. We see states like California and Illinois coming together.”

Indeed, on the national level Rep. Peter King (R-NY) introduced a bill last month to license and legislate poker and casino games at the federal level. And a new bill by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) dealing with poker-only licensing is ready to be presented to Congress. States would have the prerogative to opt in or out.

“We will keep fighting until the battle is won,” Pappas said. “That’s why we are headquartered in D.C.”

Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].

 GamingToday on Facebook      and         GamingToday on Twitter