The State of Poker
by Michael Bolcerek
Tonight, in an annual tradition, the President of the United States will address the Congress, his cabinet and our country on the “state of the union” and the goals of the government for 2007. It is not likely the president will include the “state of poker” among his crucial national issues. Thus, I would like to take this moment to provide an update on where poker sits today and examine how you and the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) can continue to work together to preserve and protect the game we love.
As we know painfully well, poker has come under vicious attack over the past year. We continue to learn on a regular basis about home and tavern poker games being raided by law enforcement and how charitable Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments are being shut down. Perhaps even worse, we have seen the federal government’s full force efforts to curb this American tradition from the Internet. Legislation aimed at prohibiting you from funding your online poker accounts passed the U.S. House this summer, then was quietly slipped into a port security bill, literally in the dark of night, which was signed into law on October 13. During these troubling times, the PPA has given you a voice to express your opposition to the government’s intrusive actions and to rally in a united fashion against these constitutional incursions.
The impact has been jarring, as the largest, publicly traded online poker operators shut down services to U.S. players. While many reputable sites still offer services to U.S. players, recent actions to close down payment processors and to subpoena banks are clear indications that the federal government is aggressively pushing the online gambling prohibition.
We don’t have to tell you that a prohibition won’t work, and in fact will likely cause many more problems than it aims to solve. The unintended consequences will soon be apparent and all the good intentions of protecting children, helping problem gamblers, and ensuring the integrity of financial transactions will be lost as rogue sites and unregulated payment methodologies surface to replace the trustworthy operators the government is driving out of business.
The PPA is not standing idly by. Poker should be exempt under the new law and that exemption is our primary goal. I have spent a good portion of January in Washington, D.C., meeting with lawmakers and others to get support for legislation that would provide a “skill game” exemption for poker. We hope to have a bill introduced very soon and then bring to bear the voice of more than 135,000 members of the PPA to push Congress to do the right thing. This would be a very positive development for the game. For the past year, we have been on the defensive, but now is the time to go on the offensive and get a bill introduced.
This year we will also be taking the issue directly to Members of Congress in their home districts, to truly nationalize the debate. We had a tremendous response from our members about becoming PPA grassroots representatives on the state and regional levels. Soon we will be announcing our positions across the country and engaging U.S. Representatives and Senators where they used to feel safe from facts and spirited debate.
While we are working toward the short-term goal of a poker exemption, the PPA will also be laying the foundation for the eventual U.S. regulation of online poker. This is the only proven public policy for online gaming. Licensing, regulating, and taxing online poker is technically feasible and the sensible and fiscally responsible thing to do. We will be working with others in Washington to move Congress in this direction.
Finally, we not only rely on your active participation but also on your active support to achieve our goals. Our new site now offers no cost introductory annual memberships. Please help us build our membership to enable us to deliver a full house to Congress and stop further threats to our game. Tell your friends, family, and fellow players to become members of the PPA. We also offer an ability to upgrade your membership from introductory to full membership and beyond. Our new and improved Web site, www.pokerplayersalliance.org, gives you tools and information to help our cause, as well as make it easier for you to donate to the PPA. I hope you will make a contribution at http://www.pokerplayersalliance.org/donatenow.php.
2007 will be an important year for poker. With your help and continued support we are optimistic that poker will remain a great American tradition.
President, Poker Players Alliance