Like most of y’all, I’m on the Poker Players Alliance’s email distribution list. I think I may have been a member once. Don’t get me wrong. There are clearly some things they’ve done that have had value. They did some good work in PA and MA and they arranged for some responsible and coherent testimony at a Congressional hearing. But more often than not, their shotgun approach to an agenda annoys me. So when I saw the title of their last email “We need your help in Texas,” I immediately deleted it. The gist of it can be found here.
Poker is already legal in Texas. As long as a game is fair, private, and the house doesn’t rake, you can play poker all day long for any stakes you like. I’m down with that. As a player, what’s not to love? So why does the PPA insist that they are humping in my best interest to “legalize” poker in Texas?
A bill introduced in Texas would regulate “charitable” and for-profit poker. It would also allow companies like PokerTek to install tables in regulated establishments - in fact the predecessor of the bill was written by PokerTek. There are big issues for poker right now. It got kicked in the teeth by the PartyGaming settlement. Frank’s bill appears to be stalling. There has still not been a successful legal precedent established to determine, one way or another, whether online poker is legal under the Wire Act. Maybe Minnesota’s actions will create the showdown on that front.
So why is the PPA wasting time feigning a “grass roots” issue over a Texas bill whose only beneficiary is commercial poker - in a state where poker is unquestionably legal? That’s my money they want to line commercial poker’s pocket with after all. How is this in my best interest? It doesn’t exactly meet my definition of fighting the good fight. I mean, even the banking lobby doesn’t ask me to petition my legislators for higher ATM fees. And they can be shameless.
Of course Dan at Pokerati would disagree with me. But that’s because Dan thinks he could finally make a living in this state if card rooms were legal. And anyone who knows Dan’s game would know it wouldn’t be from playing - it would be from organizing games at the local titty bars. As it turns out, the joke’s on Dan. They recently changed the bill — titty bars out, race tracks in. Am I the only one who is amazed by the lobbying power of horse racing in this country? There must have been some serious bucks changing hands over the decades.
I guess my other annoyances with the PPA stem from the fact that their paid lobbyist, Al D’Amato, endorsed McCain for president - even though the Republican presidential platform specifically included an anti-online gaming plank. And I still can’t figure out why they spend so much time and money trotting people out to testify that poker is a game of skill in state lawsuits where skill vs. luck isn’t even an element of the state’s gambling statute; the recent decision in South Carolina being a case in point. The judge agreed that poker was a game of skill. So what? That happens to be irrelevant in SC. Unless they pass a bill saying otherwise, gambling on cards and dice is illegal in SC. I mean the PPA has done some good work on litigation support - but they seem to have only one defense hammer (skill v. luck) regardless of whether that’s the issue. Do they just not understand state laws? Or do I not understand their motives?
Why the rant? It’s been really humid in Texas for the last couple of weeks. Maybe my brain is starting to mold.
Picture Notes: Picture of Al D’Amato and John McCain from Newsday. Picture of Fallstaff and Pauly enjoying a heads up match on a PokerTek table. Picture of Dan Michalski playing his “A” game at the 2007 WSOP.