PPA Takes Confusing Stance on Federal Gambling Bill Ban

October 13th, 2014 | by Kaycee James
PPA Executive Director John Pappas

PPA Executive Director John Pappas seems to be covering all bases with his stance on a federal online gambling ban. (Image: Fox News)

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas says that it plans to fight any bill that seeks to ban online gambling that might be discussed during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress, even if that bill contained an exception for Internet poker. According to Pappas, even a partial ban would likely be against the interests of online poker players in the United States.

“We as a poker community need to recognize that the success of poker often is built on other forms of gaming,” Pappas said. “If you cut off all other games in the US market, investment and interest would shrink considerably.”

PPA Previously Backed Bills with Poker Exception

This is a marked change in tone for Pappas and the PPA, which had previously expressed interest in a bill that would allow online poker to thrive in the US, even if other forms of Internet gaming were banned. For instance, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) were rumored to be considering such a bill in 2012, the PPA supported it.

But now, Pappas says, poker players should consider the idea that other gambling games may be necessary to get the industry interested in offering online poker at all. In markets such as New Jersey, poker has only made up about one-fifth of online gaming revenue, and it’s hard to say exactly how many companies would be interested in offering poker if the other 80 percent of their revenue stream was eliminated.

“We’re going to fight tooth and nail to protect the interests of poker players, but poker-only in the US might not be a sustainable model to benefit players long-term,” Pappas said.

Rumors Circulate About Online Gambling Bills

This clarification has become important in recent weeks, as rumors have begun to swirl that legislators might try to pass such a “poker-only” bill in the lame duck session following this November’s elections. While many analysts still feel that the chances of such legislation passing would be remote at best, it has at least become a concern for the PPA and some others in the gaming industry.

Such rumors could also be related to another story that was circulating earlier this year. Over the summer, there was some talk of a supposed meeting between Reid and Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson about Adelson’s proposed ban of online gambling, AKA the Restoration of America’s Wire Act. According to reports, the rumored deal was that Adelson, a prominent GOP donor, would stay out of this year’s Senate races as long as Reid would allow a Senate vote on his bill.

Adelson and his team have not confirmed these stories, and there have been conflicting reports over just how much he has been spending during this campaign season. But a poker-only version of his bill could be the kind of compromise measure Pappas believes could be passed during a lame duck session.

“There’s certainly opportunity for some shenanigans to happen,” Pappas said about the lame duck period after Election Day, “and everyone in the gaming industry should be keeping a close watch on what Congress may do.”

Then again, Adelson may be looking towards 2015 instead. While it’s far short of a guarantee, Republicans are favored to retake control of the Senate this year. Should that occur, Reid would no longer be the Majority Leader, and Adelson could have much better luck having his bill considered by a GOP-controlled Senate.

“Should the Republicans take hold of the Senate and Reid is no loner the majority leader, I think that puts poker in an even more precarious position,” Pappas said.

But Wait, There’s More

Following these dramatic statements, Pappas seemingly clarified the PPA official stance in a subsequent interview with NJ.com, but may have actually made the organization’s views more confusing to readers in the process.

“…if there was a bill that banned online casino games, but legalized online poker at the federal level, we would support that all day long,” Pappas said in the interview on Friday.

Although apparently still standing with his view that banning other forms of casino gaming online could be problematic for poker’s future, Pappas nonetheless added that “the PPA is going to stand with supporting poker over other forms of gambling.”

He may have been hanging around politicians just a bit too much, because we think he could be covering all bases with his revamped statements here.

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