Can the Poker Player’s Alliance Overturn the Bans on Online Poker?

by Lou on April 24, 2009

The Poker Players Alliance, now one million members strong, recently announced plans to spend $3 million on lobbying efforts aimed at overturning the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA—or at the very least—carving out an exemption for online poker.
While $3 million sounds like a tidy sum, it’s really not much in the lobbying game, and if the PPA buys in to Washington’s biggest game for only $3-mil, they will be short-stacked from the get-go. Three million dollars won’t buy much influence in Congress, especially when compared with the real deep stacks players.
To give you an idea of how much is spent annually to influence Congress, a list of 2008 lobbyist spending provided by the “Open Secrets” web site shows the real heavy hitters in the lobbying game.
US Chamber of Commerce, $91,615,000
Exxon Mobil, $29,000,000
AARP, $27,900,000
PG&E Corp, $27,250,000
Northrop Grumman, $20,743,252
American Medical Assn , $20,555,000
Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America, $20,220,000
American Hospital Assn, $19,652,914
General Electric, $19,418,000
National Assn of Realtors, $17,340,000

The PPA’s $3 million is a small voice straining to be heard as they howl into a raging wind. They are dwarfed by bigger spenders, and that should not be the case, because many of the leading European contributors to PPA can afford to contribute more—much more in fact—if they really want to overturn UIGEA.

The enemy isn’t sleeping either. The National Football League—instrumental in attaching the UIGEA to the Safe Port Act in 2006—is working hard to prevent the overturn of UIGEA and even hired a full time lobbyist to represent them in Washington. The NFL’s position is that online sports betting threatens their game’s integrity, and the league is committed to oppose efforts to repeal UIGEA. The Christian Coalition, another dedicated, well-funded group, will also lobby in favor of UIGEA.
If going up against the NFL and Christian Coalition is not daunting enough, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is adamantly opposed to online gambling, and has taken the position, “Not on my watch; not in my backyard.”
So far PPA lobbying efforts have not accomplished much, nor changed the aggressive landscape that surrounds online gaming. Companies have capitulated to pressure from the US Department of Justice and paid millions to the feds, and arrests have continued since passage of UIGEA. Even a change of administration doesn’t promise a kindler, more gentle approach to online gaming. After all, during his confirmation hearings Attorney General Eric Holder told Senator John Kyl that he was dead set on enforcing the provisions of Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).
If money is the mother’s milk of politics, then a lot more will be needed for the PPA to have any real hope of overturning UIGEA. Even Barney Frank, who plans to introduce legislation to roll back UIGEA and is in a position of power in the House, will have a tough time moving his legislation forward as long as Nancy Pelosi is dead set against it. So will the passion and persuasion of the PPA’s Al D’Amato (pictured left). What’s needed is money, and more of it.
It’s tough to tell just how much money will comprise the critical mass necessary to overcome Nancy Pelosi’s stubbornness and the entrenched, anti-gaming positions of the NFL, Christian Coalition, and Eric Holder’s commitment to John Kyl—perhaps the staunchest anti-gaming member in Congress. What’s clear at this juncture is that $3 million won’t be enough to emerge victorious in this game, at least not without a lot of luck and skill going forward.

{ 1 comment }

... April 24, 2009 at 10:15 pm

holla!!!!

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