For years, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) has swung its full support towards the legalization and regulation of online poker in the United States. As such, the majority of the poker community was perplexed by a report that surfaced on PokerNews yesterday, stating the PPA will fight to “stop any legislation to prohibit online gambling… even if it contains a carve out for poker.” With the community scratching their heads, PPA Executive Director John Pappas quickly returned to the presses to clarify the misunderstanding.
In recent weeks, it’s been rumored that the Sheldon Adelson, backer of the Restoration of Americas Wire Act (RAWA), might be open to the idea of implementing a carve out for online poker in order to get online gambling banned across the United States. On the surface, that sounds like something the PPA would be in support of, but Pappas explained what would really happen if the congress’s lame-duck session were to pass such a bill.
RAWA does nothing to regulate online poker on a federal level, which is the true aim of the Poker Players Alliance. The only thing a carve out would accomplish is preventing online poker from being banned. In essence, it wouldn’t change anything, except outlawing every other form of internet wagering. Thus Delaware and New Jersey would be forced to cease their online casino operations, while the poker side of the business would continue to operate.
Pappas told Steve Ruddock of NJ.com that such a bill would only stand to harm the iGaming industry in the US. Unless online poker is regulated on a federal level, there won’t be much draw for other states to legalize the activity. And with states that do want to offer iGaming of any kind obligated to draft their own regulations, as is the case now, being forced to open an online poker only market (like that in Nevada) won’t be nearly as appealing as a full-fledged online gambling campaign (like the much more lucrative one in New Jersey). Hence the US online poker movement would slow to a crawl, if not stall out completely.
“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,” said Pappas. He assured the poker community that it is not the PPA’s intention to support a ban of other types of online gambling, but that the group would back such a measure as a ‘last ditch effort’ if it meant achieving the primary goal of federal online poker regulation. “The PPA is going to stand with supporting poker over other forms of gambling.”
Pappas believes the best case scenario, from those currently on the table, would be passage of Texas State Representative Joe Barton’s online poker bill, which seeks to legalize and regulate internet poker on the federal level, without disturbing any other iGaming industries in the process. As such, state’s that wanted to regulate online poker could do so easily and on an interstate level, while giving them the option to regulate intrastate online casino games on their own.
If Adelson does acquiesce to a poker carve out in RAWA, it would only further the Las Vegas Sands CEO’s cause, while offering nothing in return for online poker players. The damage to the industry could be anything from minimal to disastrous. The PPA is encouraging poker fans to voice their opposition to RAWA, with or without a poker carve out.