Poker Alliance Works Sports Betting Hearing Circuit
It has been a year of change for poker’s sole lobbying organization. It started as the Poker Players Alliance, better known as the PPA, but struggled with very little funding and a dilemma about the future of its efforts. Almost exactly halfway through 2018, the announcement came that Poker Central decided to fund the group, put new leadership in place, and rebrand the PPA entirely.
The Poker Alliance emerged at the end of June, but there was little known about any change in focus, ongoing or new efforts on behalf of the poker community, or how the new era of sports betting in the United States was going to play into the direction of the group.
One month after the rebranding and leadership change, we spoke to Poker Alliance President Mark Brenner about the organization, and he was positive. His enthusiasm about the future of online poker legislation was clear, and he spoke of a revamped website that was to be launched soon to once again engage poker players and fans in the lobbying process.
Last week, we caught up with Brenner again. He took time from working the committee hearing circuit to speak with us about his efforts with the Poker Alliance.
Trying to be Heard at Hearings
Brenner called after he finished testifying at a hearing in Kentucky. Of course, Kentucky is not a state that has been kind to online poker, much less considered it or any online gaming that would compete with its horse racing industry. But on Friday, October 12, the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations held a hearing to discuss the possibilities of legalizing sports betting for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and Brenner was one of the several guests invited to testify.
— Poker Alliance (@ppapoker) October 12, 2018
“My message in Kentucky was, first, that we’d like to see a safe, well-regulated environment for internet poker, but if they go into the sports betting arena, we’re asking that they remember that there are thousands of constituents in the state that also want online poker,” Brenner explained. “We hope that when they consider sports betting, especially if they want online sports betting, that poker is included as well.”
Brenner said he believes that most legislators understand that people are gambling online irrespective of the presence of regulations. And the dangers posed by an unregulated environment are clear. “We need a secure, regulated environment with the proper oversight. And until more states legalize online gambling and internet poker, most people don’t have that.”
Sports Betting as an Avenue
The decision by the US Supreme Court in May 2018 to overturn PASPA, essentially giving each state the authority to legalize sports betting if they so choose, prompted lawmakers from dozens of states to think about it. And the state hearings to discuss the topic aren’t relegated to land-based sports betting options only, as online sports betting would provide a much more impressive revenue stream.
As these lawmakers discuss sports betting on the federal and state level, the Poker Alliance is requesting and getting a seat at the table.
The biggest of those tables thus far was that offered at the late-September hearing hosted by the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations entitled, “PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America.” Brenner attended the hearing for the Poker Alliance and submitted a statement for the record, which started as follows:
“Poker Alliance is a national advocacy organization representing the interests of more than 500,000 poker and gaming enthusiasts. The organization’s mission is to ensure a safe and regulated environment for adult Americans to enjoy the great sport of poker in whatever modality they choose. While poker creates the foundation for the Alliance, our organization is committed to advancing strong, consumer-driven policies to ensure common-sense protections for all Americans who wager on a variety of activities, including sports. In fact, a recent survey of our membership found that 92 percent support state legislation to properly license and regulate sports wagering.”
And toward the end of the lengthy but comprehensive statement, the Poker Alliance brought poker back into the conversation:
“If Congress does choose to create some unifying standards for sports betting, we would advocate that you also look at ways to create efficiencies for states that offer internet poker. Today’s state-by-state regulatory system for internet poker does not allow for an optimal customer experience, it limits revenue potential for legal operators and thereby does not generate as much revenue that would be inherent to an internet poker market that capitalizes on economies of scale.”
— Poker Alliance (@ppapoker) September 27, 2018
Online Poker Taking a Backseat?
While internet poker was and is a part of the message that is conveyed to lawmakers, it can easily be drowned out by the loud and powerful sports betting voices. Is poker taking a backseat to sports betting?
Brenner said no. In fact, he was emphatic that the answer was no.
“Poker is the message,” he said. “It’s the first and last message we deliver. Constituents in every state across the US can and do play poker online. What we hope states will do is provide the protections for those players of a safe, well-regulated environment. In many states, that is not happening. Our secondary message is that we know states are considering other forms of gaming, like sports betting, and we don’t want to be forgotten as that discussion moves forward.”
If the only thing that lawmakers want to discuss is sports betting, the Poker Alliance will be there to talk about it, while relating it to online poker and reminding them that poker is America’s pastime.
And the Website…
Brenner hadn’t forgotten about the website. While he’s been out contacting lawmakers and talking about online poker, the magic has been happening behind the scenes to create an interactive, user-friendly, comprehensive website. Not only will it be a resource for players, it will be their key to getting involved.
“We are almost done with a complete relaunch of the website,” he told us. “It will be a mobile-optimized site so people can contact their legislators and take action more directly, quickly, and easily.”
— Poker Alliance (@ppapoker) June 27, 2018