PPA Check-In with Rich Muny: The Age of Social Media
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 discussed the conditional veto issued by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, social media and more.
PNB: Could you update everyone on what is happening in New Jersey with bill A2578?
RM: Passage of A2578 in New Jersey by the legislature — by overwhelming margins in both houses — was outstanding for our effort. Governor Christie conditionally vetoed it, but it was actually more a conditional acceptance, as his conditional veto affirms support for authorized online poker and simply seeks some modifications on how it is implemented. I encourage your readers to click here to review the governor’s conditions. From the conditional veto:
“With these goals in mind, I have concluded that now is the time for our State to move forward, again leading the way for the nation, by becoming one of the first States to permit Internet gaming. I authorize this step towards modernizing Atlantic City’s entertainment attractions cautiously, with carefully constructed limitations that will ensure the highest integrity and the most robust oversight.”
He also sent out a Tweet affirming support for online poker (here)!
This is an outstanding public show of support for online poker. We all look forward to the NJ legislature taking this up quickly and returning it to the governor’s desk for his signature.
PNB: Two more states have entered the online poker arena, Hawaii and Massachusetts, what do you think of these bills and their chances to pass?
RM: I believe the progress of A2578 in New Jersey bodes well for action in the remaining states. It may not be overnight, but the dominoes are starting to fall!
In Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie was a very strong supporter of online poker while serving in the U.S. House. He cosponsored many bills that sought to license and regulate the game and is A rated by PPA. While the effort in that state won’t be easy, especially as they are one of only two states with no authorized gaming (Utah is the other), we are at a reasonable starting point.
In Massachusetts, Treasurer Steve Grossman has indicated a strong desire to examine the possibilities of online poker and online casino gaming in his state. That, along with the recent passage of legislation in that state authorizing B&M casinos, again puts us at a reasonable starting point.
We are pretty much always underdogs, but when we advocate for our rights together and ensure we are heard, our odds increase dramatically — as we saw in New Jersey.
PNB: Could you talk about the Jeremy Johnson allegations that Harry Reid was the recipient of $1 million bribe? And how damaging do you think it would be to the fight to legalize online poker?
RM: Frankly, I would not even call it an allegation as, as the oft-used metaphor suggests, an allegation requires at least a wisp of smoke to suggest the existence of some unseen fire. I personally believe this to be a groundless accusation made by someone whom Sen. Reid’s office characterized (here) as a “desperate man…making things up.” That is likely the reason Sen. Reid’s fiercest opponents in politics and in conservative media have not bothered even to mention this.
I see no impact on the online poker advocacy effort whatsoever.
PNB: What does the PPA do when it learns of newly introduced legislation or whispers of potential legislation?
RM: PPA gets involved right away, contacting legislators contemplating such legislation. We provide recommendations on provisions of bills and on the legislative language proposed by the lawmaker. PPA will then reach out to the membership to inform them of the legislation and on how to contact their elected representatives to ask for their support. We often do this with prewritten, fully editable letters that poker players, enthusiasts, and supporters can send to their lawmakers in less than sixty seconds.
PPA also puts out the word to mainstream and poker media. Prior to being organized, mainstream media often did not include the side of poker players when discussing the issue of online poker, as we saw prior to passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006. Mainstream media typically WANT to include both sides of each story. If nothing else, it makes the piece more interesting to read. Unfortunately, prior to formation of PPA, they did not really have a source for the viewpoint of the poker player. Now they do. So, this is a case where merely showing up truly was half the battle. Fortunately for us, PPA Executive Director John Pappas has a great background in media relations that he has put to terrific use in our fight, bringing the other half of the battle to bear in full force.
Grassroots activism, especially social media activism, plays a large role in impacting opinion on this issue as well. Many lawmakers have preconceived notions on public opinion regarding online poker, so it is very important for the poker community to do its part to tell lawmakers of the support online poker enjoys across the country. Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, are very effective for this. More importantly, these tools are a perfect fit for the core competencies of the poker community. We excel at these tools, while opponents typically do not.
To leverage social media, I coordinate the Poker Daily Action Plan that is posted on the Two Plus Two forums, PocketFives, and many other sites. The feedback we have received from lawmakers has been overwhelming, so we know it works. I believe grassroots social media activism was instrumental in reaching out to Gov. Christie on this issue. For more on the impact of social media, here is an interview I did on this:
Finally, PPA has a PAC, called PokerPAC, that holds fundraisers for supportive politicians, donates to campaigns, etc. Needless to say, this is important, but it works only when combined with a strong show of support from the community. After all, no lawmaker who believes his or her constituents are opposed to online poker will go out on a limb for us.
Tags: atlantic city, Christie, Conditional Acceptance, Conditional Veto, Federal Legislation, Gridlock, Internet Gaming, Jersey Governor, Leading The Way, Legislative Victory, Muny, Nj Legislature, Online Poker, Oversight, Overwhelming Margins, PNB, poker players, S Entertainment, Tipping Point, Tweet
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