The poker world did a collective double-take on Thursday when a PokerNews story claimed that the Poker Players Alliance would fight any federal bill that banned online gambling, even if it contained a carve out for online poker. Quoting the symbiotic nature of poker and general online gambling, the PPA seemingly had abandoned their core constituency.
In a follow-up interview conducted by Steve Ruddock of NJ.com, the PPA clarified their position and confirmed that while their focus may have shifted, they are still open to a poker-only online poker bill.
Poker Needs Online Gambling to Survive
The main argument from the PokerNews article was that online poker would be successful without the inclusion of general online gambling. John Pappas, executive director of the PPA, was quoted as saying, “We as a poker community need to recognize that the success of poker often is built on other forms of gaming.”
“If you cut off all other games in the U.S. market, investment and interest would shrink considerably. We’re going to fight tooth and nail to protect the interests of poker players, but poker-only in the U.S. might not be a sustainable model to benefit players long term.”
Most took these statements to imply that the PPA now feels that online-poker cannot survive without general iGaming and their focus had shifted to legalizing all forms of iGaming.
PPA Clarifies Position – RAWA Carve Out Does Not Benefit Online Poker
Ruddock contacted Pappas on Thursday for clarification on their position and learned a great deal more on the proposed carve out in the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill. According to Pappas, the carve out currently being floated around Congress does not legalize online poker. Rather, it would simply exclude it from the iGaming ban.
Pappas is concerned that Congress could attempt to pass the bill during the Lame Duck session. As he told PokerNews, the possibility for “shenanigans” exists and Congress should be watched closely during the session.
Pappas contends that passing RAWA with the current carve out would actually slow online poker growth. Without general iGaming, most companies would not see the profitability in online poker.
For example, PokerNews pointed to the fact that the New Jersey iGaming market has only seen a 20% market share by online poker. In its current state, online poker simply doesn’t bring the desire revenue to justify the expense.
Pappas further stated that, “If there was a bill that banned online casino games but legalized online poker at the federal level, we would support that all day long. The PPA is going to stand with supporting poker over other forms of gambling.”
Next Few Weeks Crucial
In the next two to three weeks, we should start to get an idea of whether we will see RAWA as part of the Lame Duck session and what form an online poker carve out will take.
While RAWA has some support in Congress, it doesn’t yet appear to have the necessary support to bring it to a vote. The PPA hopes that RAWA doesn’t come to a vote so they can focus on securing a federal solution for 2015
Of course, this assumes that the “shenanigans” hinted at by Pappas do not occur. There is always a chance that RAWA could be attached to another piece of legislation in much the same way that the UIGEA was attached to the SAFE Port Act in 2006.
Should proponents of the measure find another bill to piggyback this one to, then we may start seeing some serious movement on the measure.