Republican gains in Congress in the last election make it even more important for online poker interests to court the conservative vote.
The Poker Players Alliance will have a large presence at the Conservative Political Action Conference taking place Thursday through Saturday in Washington, D.C. In the past two years, the PPA's involvement as a sponsor of the event was limited to having a booth at the conference. This year, PPA executive director John Pappas will be allowed to participate in a panel discussion and the PPA will be allowed to put on a poker tournament, which Pappas sees as progress for recognition of the issue's legitimacy.
"We've always believed that libertarians, conservatives and moderates can support what we are advocating," Pappas said. "We just need to present the arguments to them in a digestible way."
The PPA's participation in the conference is a bit controversial. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council recently went on MSNBC and mentioned the inclusion of those pushing for the expansion of legalized gambling, along with the participation of the gay rights organization GOProud, as reasons he would not be attending the conference
Although Internet poker regulation is considered a bipartisan issue, it has drawn much more support from Democrats than Republicans, as evidenced by the House Financial Services Committee vote on Barney Frank's bill last July. Democrats voted 34-4 in support of the legislation while Republicans voted 7-18 against it. Ironically, many in the PPA leadership are conservatives, including Pappas and former Republican Senator Al D'Amato.
The Conservative Political Action Conference has been one of the key gatherings of conservative leaders and policy makers since 1973. Ronald Reagan, who is being celebrated this year for the 100th anniversary of his birth, spoke at the conference 12 times, before, during and after his presidency. Speakers this year include past presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Greg Raymer, poker pro and winner of the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event, will be in the PPA booth to sign autographs and do interviews. The PPA is hosting an exclusive poker tournament Friday night. The conference is being held at the Marriott Wardman Park.
Pappas will be taking part in a panel titled "The Future of Internet Freedom: Regulate or Liberate?" on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Others on the panel will be Robert McDowell, commissioner of the FCC, John Kindt, professor at the University of Illinois, and moderator Wayne Crews, director of technological studies for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Pappas said Kindt is anti-gaming, and he expects the panel will quickly devolve into a debate between himself and Kindt on the merits of Internet gambling regulation.
"The plan is to keep with the title of the panel in that free and open Internet has not only been prosperous but advocated by conservatives on the Hill," Pappas said. "How ironic that, on this one issue, some in the conservative party want to interrupt freedom and limit opportunity, and in some cases go as far as try to censor the Internet."
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