Poker Players Alliance Steps Up Lobbying Efforts in Pennsylvania

November 25th, 2015 | by Greg Shaun

John Pappas PPA Pennsylvania

John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, is upping the ante on persuading residents in Pennsylvania to publicly support State Rep. John Payne’s online poker legislation. (Image: yogonet.com)

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) is rallying the troops in Pennsylvania after lawmakers in the House Gaming Oversight Committee voted in favor of moving State Rep. John Payne’s (R-District 106) online poker bill to the House floor. In addition to legalizing Internet poker, Payne’s HB 649 would permit other forms of gambling online.

Payne, who also chairs the committee that oversees gambling, received 18 votes in favor to eight against in moving the legislation to the state’s House of Representatives.

Just days after the news broke, the PPA, poker’s lead lobbying group, launched a section on its website titled, “You Can Bring Poker Back to PA.”

“We are calling on all Pennsylvania poker players to tell the state’s policymakers why passing this bill is so important,” PPA Executive Director John Pappas said in a press release. “It is absolutely crucial that Pennsylvania state representatives, senators and Governor Tom Wolf are hearing from their constituents about the consumer benefits of licensing and regulating.”

Protection Through Legalization

The overarching theme of the PPA is that legalizing online poker not only produces valuable tax revenues for states, but also protects consumers and those currently participating on offshore networks.

At theppa.org/pa-action, residents in Pennsylvania can easily click their way to send prewritten emails to Democrat Governor Tom Wolf, as well as the constituent’s state senator and house representative.

The language stresses the importance of passing HB 649 in order to safeguard the unregulated market.

“HB 649 is a commonsense, bi-partisan bill that puts consumer protection first by establishing a sensible regulatory structure that holds online gaming operators accountable,” the PPA memo reads. “The bill would also raise millions in new revenue, create jobs and grow our state’s economy without imposing new taxes… “

In its talking points on Internet poker prohibition, the PPA says banning iPoker puts kids at risk, doesn’t combat problem gaming, and won’t deter criminals. In fact, the PPA argues prohibition only increases the likelihood of those instances occurring.

The 411 on 649

It’s certainly good news for those in Pennsylvania wishing to play online poker at legal sites that a bill is moving to the House floor, but HB 649 has a long ways to go before cards are in the air.

The legislation must first be approved by both the State House and Senate, and then obtain Wolf’s executive signature. Should that happen, the Gaming Control Board (GCB) would need to begin accepting and determining whether to grant interactive gaming licenses to specific applicants.

After that, we’re ready to rumble, right? Not so fast.

Once the GCB determines which Internet gambling operators are going to be reaching Pennsylvania residents, a beta period would ensue that would last around six months. That means even if HB 649 becomes law, online poker might not materialize until the third or fourth quarter in 2016.

Nevertheless, there’s a clear path forward for Pennsylvania to become the fourth state in America with some sort of legal online gaming, welcomed news to the PPA.

“The regulation of Internet poker should not be seen as an expansion of gambling, but as a way to corral the currently unregulated marketplace and turn it into a system that is safe for consumers and accountable to regulators and our government,” the PPA advocates.

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