New Poker Alliance President Speaks
Last week, the Poker Players Alliance became the Poker Alliance. The singular nationwide online poker lobbying organization that had been known to American poker players for more than a decade as the PPA changed its name and leadership.
The transition was not altogether unexpected in general, as the PPA had been brutally honest throughout the first six months of 2018 about its lack of funds and consideration of focus expansion. Meanwhile, John Pappas stepped down as the organization’s leader, and Rich Muny took the position of president. The group organized a membership drive to raise $25,000 as temporary funding but failed to raise even half of that amount. They ultimately decided not to expand to embrace sports betting, and many assumed the PPA would disappear from the poker landscape altogether.
Enter Poker Alliance. It was a refreshed organization with corporate funding and Mark Brenner as the new president.
But wait. Who was Mark Brenner?
The initial press release about Poker Alliance neglected to note much about its new leadership. Though Pappas and Muny are to be a part of an advisory board, their future involvement was unclear and to “be announced in due course.” And President Mark Brenner was said to be a “longtime business development and government relations executive.”
The lack of information about Brenner left many to speculate about his history with poker as a game and an industry.
Brenner did set up an exclusive interview with PokerNews, however, to reveal more information. The interview-based article was posted the day after the Poker Alliance announcement.
The organization hopes to advance poker on behalf of the poker playing community in the U.S. and around the world. https://t.co/NtQiu9ZQ8a
— PokerNews (@PokerNews) June 30, 2018
What We Learned
The article confirmed that Poker Central was the main source of funding for new iteration of the PPA. What had been mostly speculative information was verified in that Poker Central “rescued the alliance and revived and rebranded it as the Poker Alliance.”
As for Brenner, we finally learned about his background. He most recently worked for Apollo Education Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, as a lobbyist at the federal and state level. He oversaw government and public relations, as well as communications, throughout his time advocating for consumer protections and technological opportunities for students and graduates
His background in lobbying is a positive, but Brenner has little overall experience in the world of poker. When asked if he was a poker player, he responded, “I am a player. I’ve played on a number of occasions in Las Vegas and elsewhere.”
What he may lack in poker experience, Brenner brings in lobbying expertise and enthusiasm for legalized online poker. His interview answers focused on poker as a game of skill and one that should be available live and online, both in safe, regulated environments. He noted that the larger picture shows 37 states considering the regulation of some type of sports or online gaming, and he wants to work with each of them to ensure poker’s inclusion in those plans.
From @PokerNews: 37 states are considering how to properly regulate sports gaming, online poker, and iGaming. The Poker Alliance aims to make sure the voices of poker players are heard throughout the United States.https://t.co/POXJ0EEgYQ
— Poker Alliance (@ppapoker) June 29, 2018
Further, Brenner hopes to include poker fans and players in the process on a grassroots level as an extension of what the PPA did originally. “We believe that the local environment needs a local voice, and we want to work with players and advocates in those local communities so their voices will be heard by their elected officials. That’s one of our big goals in terms of grassroots; we want to make sure that we are providing an incredibly high level of service, awareness, and a set of information to poker players so that they know what’s going on locally.”
Brenner also has plans to initiate discussions with the American Gaming Association and major casinos about general support and cohesion.
Opinion: What We Want to Know
The lack of information thus far is a bit concerning as the Poker Alliance kicks up under the financial umbrella of Poker Central. Even the aforementioned information about Brenner came from an interview he did with PokerNews rather than a press release or introductory memo from the organization’s new president himself.
In addition, the fact that Brenner has played poker on a number of occasions isn’t exactly the experience necessary to advocate for an entire segment of the gaming industry. It would be preferable to know more details about his experience, and if that is not extensive, his efforts to study and learn about poker before representing it on a national – even international – level.
Finally, transparency is going to be key to garnering the trust of the poker public. One of the most frequently-heard criticisms of the PPA was its lack of transparency with regard to the gaming companies and operators that donated to the lobbying group. If Poker Alliance is going to set a new standard, it will be essential that the people it claims to represent are informed as to the level of financing and oversight provided by Poker Central.
Of course, Poker Alliance just launched last week, but it is critical that the organization win the trust of the poker public in short order. With the support of the community, Poker Alliance will be that much more primed to hit the ground running.