PPA Check-In with Rich Muny: Just the facts ma’am
The fight to legalize online poker in the United States has reached a tipping point, with states pushing forward with their own online poker bills, while the federal government remains in gridlock. Still, the only complete legislative victory for poker players will be when federal legislation is passed.
Every week the Poker Players Alliance Vice President of Player Relations Rich Muny will give us the latest information on the fight to legalize poker in the United States at both the state and federal level.
This week I pestered Rich with some of the forum and Internet debate that is taking place regarding the PPA as well as the state of online poker legislation in Iowa and California.
PNB: It appears that the Iowa State Senate will once again pass an online poker bill (for our readers who may not follow Iowa state politics, the bill just passed a Senate sub-committee); have the dynamics of the legislature changed in Iowa that the bill might pass, and do you think the Iowa House will even act on the bill this time around?
RM: The dynamics have changed quite a bit in Iowa, largely as a result of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware moving forward on the online poker issue. In my opinion, this has moved the effort from something theoretical to something tangible. One big change we saw was in Gov. Branstad’s opinion on this issue. Last year, he commented on the situation with a “we have enough gambling in Iowa already” type of response. This year, in response to questions that were asked of him as part of the Poker Daily Action Plan, he commented again, this time making it clear he is now neutral on the issue.
Unfortunately, this was not enough for this year. Sponsor state Sen. Jeff Danielson has conceded that he does not have support in the House to move forward this year. So, while we have a setback there, we do have a strong champion for this legislation in Sen. Danielson and we look forward to keeping up the effort there to continue building momentum to pass this important bill.
PNB: What’s the deal with California? How can a state that has had legal card-rooms for decades have such trouble passing an online poker bill?
RM: Gaming interests are notorious for seeking to limit competition. One big problem in California has been just that…how to divide the pie. There are additional concerns with some tribes over how Internet poker will impact their bricks-and-mortar operations. And, of course, there are important sovereignty issues for the tribes. Over the past few years, these various issues have kept legislation from moving.
Now, however, with other states going forward, California stakeholders are starting to see the need to work out their differences. PPA Executive Director John Pappas went to California last week to meet with lawmakers, tribes, and other stakeholders on this matter. He met with reluctant tribes to share how online poker can help them to market their B&M operations. He met with lawmakers and told them what players will expect in any legislation, along with sharing the benefits online poker would bring the state (revenue, jobs, etc.).
It’s still a dicey situation, but the combination of players advocating for the game, interests wishing to offer services, and California’s insatiable need for revenue are all working in our favor.
PNB: After your podcast “debate’ with Todd Witteles, questions have come up regarding the PPA’s funding on his website, could you give a general explanation regarding how the PPA is funded and where that funding goes?
RM: I wouldn’t say questions have come up. After all, this issue has been openly discussed for years on poker forums and by PPA representatives in media interviews. It is even on PPA’s website…#2 in the FAQ section (http://theppa.org/about/faq). PPA’s funding comes from donations from players and donations from the Interactive Gaming Council…a group that includes PokerStars.
As this is an expensive and difficult fight with entrenched opponents who would love to ban the game, it is very helpful to us that we have corporate supporters who see value in aiding our fight. There’s no quid pro quo. They contribute because the poker community’s advocacy efforts help move poker forward in the U.S.
The expenditures all go directly to the fight, including lobbying, support of advocacy, and media relations.
PNB: During the post-debate discussion on PokerFraudAlert.com, Haley Hintze jumped into the fray. Haley has been extremely critical of the PPA in the past and she recently published a five-part series trying to connect the PPA with former payment processor Jeremy Johnson and Sun First bank. Could you respond to these allegations?
RM: Absolutely. John Pappas has provided terrific leadership for the fight both in the player community and on Capitol Hill. So, it’s no surprise he has interacted with many people involved with online poker. Here are his comments on this matter:
John Pappas’ remarks were originally posted in the 2+2 thread located here: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/29/news-views-gossip/did-ppa-help-foster-situation-led-black-friday-1305595/index5.html
I’d like to take the opportunity to clear up some falsehoods that have been circulating around the PPA’s mission and my actions as executive director. As most of you probably know, Haley Hintze is not a supporter of the PPA and has recently made it her personal agenda to drag our name through the mud at any and all opportunity. Back in September 2012, when I offered to discuss her concerns with the PPA, Haley declined my offer and has since taken the opportunity to attack PPA and our efforts in her commentary without the facts. Here are some excerpts from our emails in September:
From: John Pappas To: haleyhintze Sent: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 2:49 PM Subject: Hello! Haley — Hello and I hope you are well. I understand you have some critiques about the PPA’s advocacy work … I’d be happy to speak with you to address your concerns and hopefully clear up any questions you may have. Let me know if there is a time tomorrow (Thursday) that works for you.
Hi, John, Nope, not too interested today. Twenty-four hours ago I’d have said yes, but things have changed. Please go ahead and cancel my PPA membership while you’re at it.
From: John Pappas > To: ‘Haley Hintze’ Sent: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 3:54 PM Subject: RE: Hello! Okay. Perhaps I have missed something, but what has occurred in the past 24 that has turned off the possibility of me addressing your concerns?
Pretty concerted efforts by various PPA folks to drown me out and smear me … Granted that I haven’t exactly taken a pro-PPA stance, but my core beliefs remain the same, including that the PPA shouldn’t call itself a “Players” group if it continues, first and foremost, to serve selected business interests. You can declare and defend otherwise, but I’m not going to change my opinion, and what I wrote was OPINION/editorial.
Pappas final response:
From: John Pappas To: Haley Hintze Sent: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 4:58 PM Subject: Re: Hello! Well, safe to say I don’t agree with your opinions and my hope was to better inform you of the PPA’s lobbying efforts, where we focus our resources and how those decisions are made. Sadly, you seem intent on holding fast to your opinions, even without the benefit of this knowledge; which seems an odd approach from someone in the field of journalism. Nevertheless, I respect your decision. As for the “smearing” of your good name, the tweets and responses to your articles that I have seen have in very large part been respectful and are attempting to correct your misinformed statements. That is far from a smear campaign, sounds more like passionate ppa members defending the organization from your attacks. And if someone does cross the line, I can assure you it would not be condoned or approved by me. Finally, per your membership request, we have no record of a Haley Hintze being a ppa member.
As you can tell, based on this exchange alone, I have little interest in responding to Ms. Hintze in any fashion, much less her demand that I post my responses to her questions on the PokerFraudAlert forum. In Haley’s most recent manifesto, she has tried to perpetuate the notion that the PPA was intricately involved with payment processor Jeremy Johnson. Here are the facts:
- · In April 2010, I met with the Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and his Chief Deputy to explain the basis for the PPA’s long-standing position that poker is a game of skill, not chance, and therefore lawful under Utah state gambling law. The meeting was also important to the PPA and its mission because the Attorney General had been an outspoken critic of the UIGEA and had suggested that he would support regulation of Internet gaming.
- · The purpose of the meeting from the PPA’s perspective was to get the Attorney General to review the law and our analysis of the relevant case law and to consider issuing an opinion related to poker. [As many of you know, this is a key argument in the states where poker is currently deemed illegal and because of our work on skill v. chance that we presented in a federal court last summer, United States v. DiCristina, the judge issued a 120 page opinion about why poker is a game of skill and does not violate a series of federal laws.
- · Although we had a productive dialogue, it was clear to me that the Attorney General would not issue an opinion, but would consider our research and analysis after the meeting. At no point during the meeting was payment processing discussed and there was never a mention of SunFirst Bank. Ultimately, nothing came about as a result of the meeting.
- · I have only met Jeremy Johnson once in person, albeit briefly, at a large fundraiser. Besides that interaction, the only time I communicated with him was via email to facilitate the same type of meeting in Utah, which the PPA was having across the country regarding the “skill vs. chance” legal argument. In all, I have received 6 emails from Jeremy Johnson from March 18 – April 1, 2010. Again, I met him in person only once at the Harry Reid fundraiser at the WSOP later that year. An event attended by nearly 100 people. I have never had a private meeting with Mr. Johnson and Harry Reid (I have met with Senator Reid on several occasions, but never with anyone who was not directly associated with the PPA).
- · I have met Attorney General Shurtleff in Washington D.C. on a few occasions. Most notably when I presented to a group of U.S. Attorneys General at their annual meeting about poker and why states should support regulation of Internet poker.
I recently explained this to Business Reporter Tom Harvey, who covers white collar crime for the Salt Lake Tribune when he contacted me two weeks ago on a legitimate article he was drafting on the Attorney General’s involvement with payment processor Jeremy Johnson. In the piece, Tom wrote:
Online-poker companies had sought a way to legally process payments after they were shut out of other banks and their funds seized by federal authorities for trying to hide the origin of the monies, a practice that violated federal laws.
So the companies tried a “transparent” approach, according to court documents, disclosing the origin of the payments and arguing that processing was legal for players who went online to compete against one another. At the same time, the Poker Players Alliance launched an effort to persuade top legal officials — including Swallow’s boss, then-Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff — that poker is largely a game of skill, not chance, a distinction that would make online betting more likely to be legal, at least in certain states. According to emails, prominent gaming attorney Jeff Ifrah wrote to Johnson on March 4, 2010, with a “draft opinion” attached. “We would like you to deliver this to the Utah AG and request that he meet next week, T-W or Th, with me and the executive director of the Poker Players Alliance (John Pappas), who he already knows,” says the email that was forwarded to Swallow. About three weeks later, Shurtleff and Swallow met with Pappas and others. “The purpose of the meeting, from the PPA’s perspective, was to get the attorney general to review the law and our analysis of the relevant case law and to consider issuing an opinion related to poker,” Pappas wrote in an email. But, Pappas said, it became clear that Shurtleff thought that poker was illegal in Utah — no matter whether it was a game of skill or chance — and thus would issue no such opinion “I told them straight up I didn’t think that would be possible,” Shurtleff said in an interview. “That’s No. 1. No. 2, I said we don’t give opinions to individuals.”
I fully respect the freedom of press to report the facts, just as I respect protect players’ freedoms to play poker, but I also know it is important to consider the source. A legitimate news reporter gathers and reports on the facts and let’s their readers form an opinion. An opinion/editorial reporter takes the facts and offers their transparent opinion for their readers to consider. Haley Hintze is neither of these as she is simply providing her own opinion, cloaked as fact in her own commentary. She will continue to try to attack PPA’s credibility and integrity, but facts are facts. We at the PPA are fighting for your rights to play the game of poker whether it be at your card table in states like Maryland, New Hampshire and Texas or online with players in your state and across the country. Black Friday was a terrible day and though the PPA did not foster the situation that led to it, we have been working overtime to help resolve it. Since that day, we have been working with the players affected to ensure the government pays back the money they owe and that the DOJ once and for all recognizes the rights of American citizens to play this game. We always welcome player feedback, good and bad to help us in this fight and in fact, we depend on it. Give us a call or send an email if you still have concerns or want to share your ideas. We are always here fighting for you.
John A. Pappas
Executive Director, PPA
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