One of the worst kept secrets in recent poker memory became official on Sunday with the naming of former Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY) as the Chairman of the Board for the Poker Players Alliance. D'Amato assumes the position formerly held by Linda Johnson, who remains on the PPA's executive board.
D'Amato, quickly dubbed by PPA president Michael Bolcerek as the 'First Senator of Poker,' is expected to give the PPA and online poker interests a higher profile in the halls of Washington, D.C. Bolcerek added that, "We are thrilled to have Senator D'Amato take up our cause to promote and protect the game played by millions of Americans. His enthusiasm, tenacity and political astuteness will bolster the influence of the PPA and help earn poker a much deserved exemption from the recent online gaming law."
D'Amato, himself a poker fan and player of decades' standing, hopes to bring his considerable influence to bear on a possible exemption for poker within the constraints of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, signed into law last October, despite poker not being banned specifically within the UIGEA. Nonetheless, the ripple effects caused by the UIGEA's reach have already stretched deep inside the poker world, altering many pieces of the poker landscape.
"This new position," said D'Amato, referring to his naming as PPA Chairman, "will allow me to fuse these passions and help establish sensible policy that allows Americans to enjoy the great game of poker in the venue of their choosing." D'Amato also noted that, "Prohibitions don't work, they only create unintended consequences. The American people know this and we are going to make sure Congress knows it too. We need common sense regulation of Internet poker. Prohibition will only drive the industry underground and strip away any protections for children and services for problem gamblers."
The clear focus on the online version of poker is in itself a modification in official PPA policy. The PPA now boasts over 160,000 members, and cites estimates that over 23 million Americans played online poker at least once in 2006. Such numbers show the overwhelming popularity of the game, and suggest that if D'Amato can leverage that support into effective and sensible policy, poker itself may have brighter days ahead.