Poker as Politics - Interview with Alfonse D'Amato, Part Two
Yesterday, we ran part one of our interview with former Senator, and current Poker Players Alliance Chairman Alfonse D'Amato. Today, Senator D'Amato discusses what he thinks the future might hold for online poker, and when that future may actually come to pass.
PokerNews: Welcome back, Senator. It is exciting to a poker player that there are pieces of legislation out there. It's exciting that people like yourself are coming out and talking about this. Do you get a real sense from these sort of rank and file of the people on the Hill, that this is becoming an issue in their mind?
D'Amato: It's just beginning. It really is in the embryonic stage. In other words, to get 600,000 members is pretty good. If we get it up to a million, it would be more than 2,000 people in each congressional district. Now, if you have 2,000 people calling, if we get them energized, if we get a significant number. I know it takes an effort to join, but it doesn't take much of an effort to email, to pick up the phone, to write a letter… That begins to move the process; we're also working on educating. So this is the Poker Players Alliance, what you have to do is educate the members of Congress that there is software available to deal with the underage gambler you're concerned with. And by the way, they're right to be concerned but there are programs, which they obviously are unaware about, that can deal with that problem.
PokerNews: So, is it the situation? What can create, in the near term, the most movement on this issue?
D'Amato: I think people calling. I think Poker Players Alliance, educating members of the Congress and their staff, and I also think the pressure from the world community. Here, everyone is turning to the net. For information, for finding things, for selling things, and what are we doing? We're going to exclude foreign competition? So the WTO said "No, you can't do that. You can't pick and choose the laws that you want to utilize." We've been concerned about intellectual property rights United States for years! We're angry at people pirating our intellectual property. Here we are saying "Oh, but you can't sell your products over the Internet, basically the games and the services that you want. So, we're going to pay in the fullness of time if we continue this and don't amend, billions of dollars in sanctions will be hitting us.
PokerNews: Do you really feel the WTO decision can have some real teeth and come and bite us?
D'Amato: Absolutely, in the fullness of time. I think probably, in late July you're going to see another decision that comes down, certainly by September, that's going to put this in perspective. And then I think you're going to have these giants in the technology industry, like Microsoft, that could be in fact very much involved in this.
PokerNews: I see. And then you're going to see real serious movement.
D'Amato: Then you're going to see serious movement.
PokerNews: Right. One thing that I've been fascinated with, I wonder what you're hearing about this, what you're feeling about this, you've been talking to these people all the time, what's the position of big gaming in all this, like the MGM/Mirage and Harrah's of the world?
D'Amato: I think they're somewhat in business at this point, fear of the unknown, the uncertainty. But I also believe you see some very progressive people, Harris for example, which has really, through the world tournament of poker, and its televising of the events has captured, it has one of the largest viewerships in sports today! I think only the NFL Football and NASCAR rank ahead of poker's numbers. So, this is going to continue to grow. As you've seen, some embrace it, Harrah's has begun to embrace it. The fact of the matter is that in the fullness of time, they will get behind this. Right now, they are ambivalent. I don't think they are anxious to see their turf invaded by the Internet, but it will be. I think they are pretty smart people. They've built a great industry. They want to protect it. I think that by protecting, you go into the new kind of technological achievements, which will open this market. I can see the day when you'll have tens of thousands of people participating in a World Series of Poker tournament over the Internet. Think about it. Why should it just be 6,100-plus that played in the championship? The World Series here, I think you'll have 60,000 someday, worldwide, competing and they'll be using the Internet.
PokerNews: That sounds good to us. The thing that I'm asked the most, I have to ask you, when people come up to me and talk about this issue: timetable. You talked about being in the embryonic stages, so is there any timetable at all, no matter how premature, for any movement about this issue? In one direction or another?
D'Amato: I predict some time between now and September, before September, or before the month of September ends, we'll have a mark-up of one or more of the bills, and I think that will be a very, very important thing. Because, if that committee, the banking committee, or the 'Financial Services Committee' as they call it, moves a bill forward, the momentum will begin to pick up more and more. We will go from the 25 + co-sponsors that we have to over 50 then. Then you'll get real momentum.
PokerNews: Two final questions. Number one, you've obviously got a lot of experience in the lobbying process, a process that's a mystery, frankly to lay people like myself.
D'Amato: It's a mystery to me, too.
PokerNews: For a good reason maybe, right? What can the poker industry do? I'm not talking about the people; we'll get to that in a second. What can the people in the poker industry do to enact real change? Everything from the Party Pokers of the world and the Harrah's of the world, to the Pokernews.com's and what not?
D'Amato: Well, let me say this, they have to work together. If they work together in a concerted way, in terms of carrying the message, in terms of educating, you know, the millions of poker players who've been cut off as to what they can do. And that's what we're trying to do, reach out to them and tell them, "Join the PPA, let your Congressman know." We have to muster our forces together, and together we're very powerful. I could see, if we had a concerted industry drive where you could bring the numbers up well over a million. And then, we'll have a million people who are lobbying and working in pushing their rights. And by the way, they are asking nothing more than to be able to use the Internet in their home, to be allowed to play poker, and put the safe cards in there for kids.
PokerNews: Senator D'Amato, we really appreciated you joining us. Enjoy the rest of your time at the World Series.