PPA Check-In with Rich Muny: Naysayers
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 Rich talked about some of the heat the PPA receives from the poker community as well as the fight in Washington State to repeal the most archaic law in the nation regarding online poker.
PNB: First, what is your response to people who claim the PPA is reactionary, taking credit for measures after the fact?
RM: There are people who claim the moon landings were faked too.
I know the poker community came together and stood up for itself after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed in 2006. The legislative situation for the game has continually improved. When we did not, as was the case prior to 2006, the legal situation for the game continually degraded. That’s not a coincidence, nor was it some conspiracy where government agencies got together to clear the market to aid U.S. companies.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act passed the House in 2006 as a freestanding bill (HR 4411, which was far tougher than the final law) by 317-93. Many politicians and groups lined up against the right to play, seemingly believing they would gain politically from such a position. In that era, mounting an advocacy effort probably looked like a fool’s errand to some. Additionally, many believed the online sites of that era would continue serving their U.S.-based customers without issue and that licensing would only serve to increase rake and to harm the market. I know I received many emails and other communications back then advising that we just fly under the radar and be quiet!
Fortunately, the vast majority of the poker community did not agree with that opinion and, instead, stood up for the game.
PNB: A situation has come up in Washington State where a grassroots initiative is in competition of sorts with PPA backed legislation. Obviously we all want the same ends, but like everything else in politics the avenue we arrive there can be very different: How does the PPA deal with these types of situations where player-led initiatives conflict with the PPA’s long-term goals?
RM: The proposed Washington State initiative does not conflict with PPA’s goals. If it passes, it will be a great day for all. We are all working hard in the Evergreen State to repeal that egregious law that makes playing online poker a felony.
If there ever were a case where a player-led initiative conflicted with the goals of the poker community, I imagine we would discuss it a lot on forums like 2+2, PocketFives, and others to have a dialog on the issue and would go from there. For example, if someone were to decide on their own that they wanted no multi-tabling, very low maximum table stakes, no chat, no rakeback, etc. (i.e., they wanted to codify their own opinion of what online poker should be to criminalize their pet peeves), we’d act as a community.
PNB: Finally, is there anything you would like to say the people who feel poker would be in the exact same spot with or without the PPA?
RM: I think the three people who believe that are entitled to their beliefs. The rest of us saw the Congressional hearings, heard Rep. Barton speak to the PPA membership at the 2012 PPA Las Vegas Town Hall, saw the major changes in perception of the game since 2006 and, most importantly, saw the shift from lawmakers trying to ban online poker to seeking to license it.
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