In Washington, D. C. recently, another effort by Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) in his battle to outlaw online poker and online gaming was narrowly defeated. Free bar poker leagues face the continuous threat of law enforcement, even to the point of league matches being raided and players and bar owners being arrested. There is also the ongoing legal threat in some areas of the bastion of American freedom, the home, being attacked because friends and neighbors gather for a night of poker.
When faced with all the above attacks, how can the game of poker be protected? This is the main battle front for the Poker Players Alliance, the non-profit organization that is located in Las Vegas. Brought together this year, the Poker Players Alliance is, at this point, the only group that is actively serving as a voice for poker in the legislative areas of the country and continues to attempt to fight back whenever the rights of poker players are under attack. You may be surprised how much such a voice is needed.
The Poker Players Alliance is already respected by some of the most reputable people in the game, including Linda Johnson (the voice of the World Poker Tour and the leader of the Tournament Directors Association), Nolan Dalla, and professional poker player Paul Darden. Recently I was able to sit down for a phone conversation with Jason Newburg, the marketing coordinator for the Poker Players Alliance, and the vice president of the organization, Sam Gorewitz. It proved to be an enlightening look into their work and what the Poker Players Alliance is trying to do.
PN: Gentlemen, what is the main objective of the Poker Players Alliance?
JN: Our main objective is to serve to protect the rights of poker players across the United States. We want to be an advocacy group that will be actively lobbying on behalf of all players in Washington and to be able to protect those rights.
SG: We are a non-profit group, as stated in our 501(C)(4) standing, and are the only ones on the ground in DC with a lobbying interest for the rights of poker players. You would be surprised about how the rights of poker players are under attack. We are a grassroots group that is looking out for the average player and protecting those rights.
PN: It's does seem that Senator Kyl has been trying to make online poker illegal. How serious is that threat?
JN: This effort last week was the closest, I believe, that he has come. It has been an eight year battle that Senator Kyl has waged against the online gaming community and our lobbying of other senators was important in defeating this current challenge. We know, however, that Senator Kyl will continue to attack the game.
PN: Is there more of a focus on national poker regulation or is there concern as well for state and local laws as well?
JN: There is certainly a concern on all regulations on all fronts. It is very important to clarify the laws that are in existence already, as they differ so much when you go from not only state to state but even down to the local levels. We are not only speaking out on national matters, but also are willing and able to be that voice even on the state and local levels, if needed.
It was interesting, I was just reading the other day about police raiding a poker game that was being played in a retirement center and, when the press asked the officer in charge why they were raiding the game, he basically shrugged his shoulders and couldn't give an answer as to why...
PN: Yes, I think I remember that story as well...
JN: And that story, Earl, really pointed out the need for clarification and standardization of the laws. There is quite a bit of confusion out there and, when there are so many other problems that the police are needed on, having them raid home poker games seems to be a little absurd.
SG: Our website is due to be updated on September 26th, and we will have a much deeper look at the different regulations state by state. This information should be there then and will be very helpful to everyone regarding their local regulations. We will also be archiving various stories that help to exemplify the lengths that law enforcement has gone to in some cases.
PN: I do know as well that many of the free poker leagues have come under fire as well. What can the PPA do to combat those attacks?
SG: Getting the word out to these organizations is very important. One of our main missions has been letting these types of groups, as well as the online poker rooms and such, know that we are here and can be of assistance to them if necessary.
PN: Is uniformity in poker laws something that is important?
SG: That is something that is one of our very long term goals. Our main efforts are currently on being a voice for the players and taking that voice to the politicians in Washington. By starting at this highest level, we will make a strong impact and then we can, in the future, do the same type of work on the state and local levels.
Part of the problem with the differing laws across the board seem to lie in the determination of just what poker is. Some areas view it as a game of skill, and others view it as a game of luck. The game of poker is very much a game of skill and, therefore, should be looked at as such when it comes down to its legality or not.
PN: Would it be accurate to call the PPA more of a "proactive" organization for poker?
SG: That would be extremely accurate, Earl. No other poker group has a lobbying voice in the halls of Congress that we do. Furthermore, through our website, we have something called CapWiz that can bring a certain action to the attention of our members and mobilize them by directing them to contact their particular representatives and sound their voices as well.
PN: How important is it for the poker community to have a cohesive and singular voice such as the PPA?
JN: It is extremely important for the game of poker to have that. All poker players have the same objective and idea, and that is to protect the game. The PPA will be that voice and, with our lobbying efforts and a strong membership, we can be that singular voice to have an effect on poker's future.
PN: How many members are currently involved in the fight with the PPA against the legislation of poker and what are you doing to get the PPA's message to the poker playing masses?
JN: Our goal is to have a 100,000 membership organization. We are looking to make a serious membership drive through our discussions and alliances with several online poker sites and other online outlets. We also are making a concerted marketing push into poker magazines where we can reach more people with our message and a television campaign as well.
SG: With a strong membership base, we can be an even more effective lobbying voice in Washington. We have already garnered a great deal of respect from the people in DC, even though we are a new group. I like to look at us kind of like an NRA type group that speaks out for the rights of poker players.
PN: How has the PPA been received in the poker community?
JN: We had a booth at the Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino. During that event, which was also our first live membership drive, about 75-80% of the first reactions from many there were "are you serious?". It seems that players don't recognize that the threat to the game exists.
SG: We signed up hundreds of members during that stop at the Legends, and the continued word of mouth from people will continue to assist the PPA and expand our group even further.
PN: How can an individual go about learning more about the PPA?
JN: Our website, pokerplayersalliance.org, is the first stop for learning more about the group. We will have a new look to it after our redesigning is finished, and that should be by September 26th. You can sign up for membership there and we offer a multitude of payment options, including credit card, Neteller and FirePay options. For those that are concerned about the security of our site, we have gone to great lengths to provide the most secure server not only to protect their information but to also protect their membership with the PPA.
I would like to thank both Jason and Sam for their time and for opening my eyes to many of the legal issues that face the world of poker today. It is important that, as our game continues its growth, that we protect the basic right of people to play the game and to participate across the United States. For more information on the Poker Players Alliance, check out their website at pokerplayersalliance.org.
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