February 17th, 2011
2011 is well underway and so are the Poker Players Alliance’s efforts to protect and promote our rights as poker players. Whether you are an online player or a home game fan, the PPA continues to work with federal and state legislatures and the courts to ensure that you have a safe and regulated environment in which to play poker.
The “Lame Duck” Poker Bill
As you know, at the end of last year during the “lame duck” session of Congress, there was a flurry of activity to pass Internet poker legislation. Because of external political factors outside our control, the opportunity passed, and while there was a tremendous effort, it ultimately fell short.
Much was revealed during the lame duck effort; most of it good, but some of it raised concerns among the playing community. It is a good thing that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stepped up and took the position that Internet poker is something that should be recognized by this country and properly licensed and regulated. He and his staff worked with a variety of stakeholders to craft a bill that would create a U.S. regulated Internet poker marketplace, establish sensible consumer protections, guarantee states’ rights, and generate revenue and economic growth. We are pleased that the leader of the United States Senate is someone we can call an ally for realistic Internet poker policy.
The Controversial “Freeze”The bill, to the surprise of some, included a 15 month “freeze” period in which U.S. online poker play would essentially cease until regulations were finalized and licenses were issued. The PPA opposed this lengthy freeze. However, we did support versions of the bill where this language was included. Our support was not easily won — we fought this freeze very hard — but in politics there is always compromise. We believed that the short-term pain of a playing “freeze” was worth the long-term stability of a regulated marketplace. While this concept is not easy for online players to accept, it is more difficult to accept the notion that the status quo is tenable. Players, and operators, need clarity. You need reliable deposits and payouts. You need the assurance that your games are fair and that the operators are accountable. The bill would have achieved this.
What’s Next for a Poker Bill
There is a view among some that the death of this legislation may have been a good thing given some of the onerous provisions. It is now the PPA’s and the player community’s responsibility to demonstrate to lawmakers why these provisions should be eliminated or at a minimum revised. During this Congress, the PPA will seek to improve key aspects of the draft bill, including:
- eliminate/reduce the playing freeze
- eliminate/reduce the restriction on global player pools
- increase the number of automatically opted in states
- establish favorable tax treatment for online players
- ensure that legislation does not unfairly discriminate against companies who currently serve the U.S. market.
Much has been said about the new Congress and that new Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives will make it impossible to get legislation done. We do not hold that view and are in fact optimistic about moving a bill this year. Just last week it was announced that Republican Congressman John Campbell plans to introduce pro-Internet gaming legislation. We are already building on the tremendous progress we made last year. It is important to note that there are more than 100 new “freshman” members of the U.S. Congress. That is nearly 20 percent! We welcome the opportunity to educate these fresh faces, and our advocacy team is well on its way to meeting every new member of the House and Senate before the end of February.
Let New Members of Congress Know Poker has Broad SupportWe have also engaged the players. To date, more than 2,500 of you have already written an email to the new members of Congress urging them to support Internet poker legislation. We are now asking everyone to send a letter to their elected official reminding them to support your poker rights. Simply click on the button below and in only 60 seconds you can send an email to your Representative and two Senators.
State Update: South Carolina and WashingtonAs the federal debate continues, the PPA remains at the frontline of state and legal issues. Poker players in South Carolina are already seeing the benefits of our advocacy this year. In January, the state Senate Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly passed a bill to allow for residents to play poker for money in their own home — an activity interpreted to be forbidden due to an 1802 statute. The bill also codifies the predominance test which correctly identifies poker as a game of skill. Very soon the full Senate will consider this important bill.
In Washington State, where it is a Class 3 felony to play Internet poker, the PPA is launching a legislative challenge. This week we are asking select PPA members in the state to join us for a day of lobbying their local legislators in support of repealing this ridiculous law. This will be our first ever State Capitol lobby day, and we are excited to educate Washington lawmakers.
State Updates: New Jersey, Florida, and CaliforniaWe are also closely monitoring intrastate efforts to pass online poker legislation. California and Florida have bills introduced for consideration, and in New Jersey a law is awaiting signature by the governor. Should the New Jersey governor sign the bill (which also includes online casino games), they will become the first state to license and regulate Internet gaming. It will be a historic achievement and likely a bellwether for other state activity as well as motivation for the federal government to take more decisive action. The prospects of the California and Florida bills remain very unclear. There are significant problems with both approaches that tend to favor in-state gaming interests to the detriment of the consumer. The PPA will seek to correct those problems as these bills advance in their respective states.
Legal UpdatesThe PPA has also taken up the legal fight of several online players who are being targeted by a “get rich quick” attorney perverting a seldom used statute to recover losses from “illegal” gambling. The PPA is fully engaged in the defense of these players, and we are making it very clear that this type of aggressive action against our members will be hard fought. Also on the legal front, the PPA is working with a charity card room operator in Southern Virginia who was forced to close his doors after operating for several years and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities. Our Litigation Support Network has identified local counsel to support the card room and it is also developing the legal strategies and arguments so that Virginians can continue to play poker for charitable causes.
Fighting for America’s Favorite Card GameIndeed, the fight for our poker rights is not over. It is just beginning. Your PPA is dedicated to protecting your freedoms in state capitols and courthouses across the country. We cannot do this alone. We need your help and we need your enthusiasm for the game you love. We have a real chance to get a bill through Congress this year, and we can shape the intrastate efforts. We will fight to make sure all legislation is something the poker community can fully support. Will you stand with the PPA?
Please take a moment to send an email to your U.S. Representative and Senators. If you have not joined the PPA as a dues paying Premium Member, please do so today. For only $20, it is the best bet in poker!
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