On the Button: John Pappas of the PPA

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Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas appeared on Poker Action Line, a weekly radio show that agreed to let Ante Up be the exclusive publisher of this interview. Pappas discussed Black Friday with the show’s host, Big Dave Lemmon.

For the most part, people have had their lives interrupted and it’s been a terrible time. People are looking for guidance, and you guys have been a beacon of light out there to show the way. Well, I appreciate you saying that. Obviously, we would’ve much rather been in a position of talking about how this was going to be resolved through legislation, but now it seems as if were moving in the litigation route, though the PPA is certainly not abandoning its effort to create a licensed and regulated market here in the U.S.

We actually believe now more than ever is a time for Congress to act, and we’ve already had tens of thousands of poker players take action, and I believe that this could be a galvanizing moment for our community to really do something about online poker.

I do believe there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t believe this means the end of online poker in the U.S.; I think there will be a serious effort over the next several months from not only the PPA but other brick-and-mortar interests in the U.S. to get Congress to do something.

There are things we can do, like joining the Poker Players Alliance, because there is strength in numbers and you have millions of poker players out there. No doubt about it. Joining the PPA is a great step, but even more important is taking action and using some of the tools we provide on our website at theppa.org/takeaction.

I think it’s going to be a really interesting time, perhaps a tipping point, for the poker community to see if we can convince lawmakers to pass legislation, or are we going to be complacent and let Congress run roughshod over us?

Let’s talk a little about your “Take Action” plan and how people can do something. What the PPA has laid out — and by no means is this the last grass-roots strategy from the PPA, but merely an opening salvo — the first thing to do is to weigh in with Congress, President Obama and Attorney General (Eric) Holder. We’ve provided some form letters to use or you can write your own, there’s an automatic system where they just go through a website to send letters to their two senators and their representative, along with Obama and Holder. It’s an easy process that takes about 60 seconds. In fact, over the past week we’ve had over 70,000 letters sent to Washington, D.C. from poker players.
So that’s a pretty impressive number, not to mention the social networking aspect of this. The (Department of Justice) has been bombarded with letters and phone calls, but also their Facebook page has been, if you will, taken over by angry and frustrated poker players and I think that is a great way of expression.

The other thing we’re asking people to do is reach out to their local media. If you’ve lost your job because you were playing professionally online and you’ve lost a significant amount of your income, or you’ve just lost a freedom that you felt you really enjoyed … reach out to your local newspaper or news station and tell them your story. They love human-interest stories like this, and would love to hear from their viewers that have been negatively impacted by their government.

The immediate reaction of most players was “How do I get my money? Will I get my money back at all?” Are people starting to get their money back? As far as I understand it, I don’t believe all money has yet been refunded. To be clear, it’s gonna be a process. … I really credit the poker community at large for putting the pressure on the Department of Justice, for making them feel the political pressure to say, “OK, we need to make sure that the players are made whole,” so they are working with the sites to set up a process where the sites can get money back to the players.

I know the sites want to make this happen sooner rather than later, and from the PPA’s perspective, any day after today that the players don’t have their money is too late.

This is money many people use to help pay their mortgages or buy food and groceries; it’s their personal property and the idea that the government is standing in the way of it is outrageous. I don’t think we’re going to have what we had in 2006, which was a huge delay for people getting money off of NetTeller, but I don’t think it’s going to be immediate.
Clearly when you look at the civil complaint, the DOJ feels very strongly that playing poker online is an illegal act, or at least, they look negatively at it. I don’t think there is any doubt that the DOJ’s opinion going into this is that online poker is illegal, which we strongly disagree with and not only that we disagree with, but there are legal scholars across the country who have been very skeptical about the DOJ’s position on that point.

For the larger issues about financial crimes, I’m sure the court cases will deal with those allegations and we don’t necessarily have an opinion on that, but with their fundamental baseline principal that Internet poker is unlawful under federal law, we disagree wholeheartedly and think we win on that.

We know the president enjoys playing poker. How high does it go in the political offices on this latest decision to indict several of these people? That’s a good question and we’ve been trying to get an answer to that, which I haven’t gotten yet. I have talked to a number of lawyers … some of whom are involved, some of them representing those who were indicted, some who are just kind of experts, former DOJ attorneys themselves who said that it is probably unlikely that Holder or Obama knew of these indictments before it happened.

That doesn’t mean that they can’t be held accountable. While they may not have been informed of it, again this is just what I’ve heard from others, I don’t have any information one way or the other, but we hope that’s something we can get. We just don’t have it yet.

They are the ones who can ultimately quash this or give the green light for the prosecution to continue and I think we need to apply as much pressure on Obama and Holder to talk some sense into the Southern District of New York. While they need to pursue where they feel that laws were broken, that’s fine, but at the same time, you can certainly stop the pain for millions of poker players by pushing for a safe and regulated marketplace while at the same time you can pursue this lawsuit.

Is there a silver lining in this black cloud? I think it is a silver lining. I think the poker community, the PPA, all the poker players, should stand together to make the most if it. We have a Congress and lawmakers who love to talk about the deficit and the need to create jobs.

Well, here we are handing them on a silver platter a way to raise revenue without raising taxes and a way to create jobs here in America by legitimizing an industry that has been crying for it. They would be foolish to let this opportunity slip by the wayside. We need to make sure they are 100 percent aware of it.

— Poker Action Line is broadcast live and available on the Internet on Monday nights (following Yankees games) on WFTL-AM 640 in South Florida or on pokeractionline.com. With your phone scan the tag on the left to visit the website.
Pappas says President Obama is reachable through the PPA website.

Make your voice be heard

Here’s what John Pappas says you can do to get involved with the Poker Players Alliance and how take the next step.
Going to our website is the first thing they need to do. The website is www.theppa.org. We have a number of social networks as well. I think we have over 60,000 friends on Facebook and more than 10,000 followers on Twitter. On a daily basis, we are pumping out news and information through those social networks so that people can learn about things they can do. Once you get to our website and once you join our network, there are a number of tools that are provided for you to take action. …These are your rights. The PPA can be here as your collective voice in Washington, but people need to take action into their own hands and need to remember that these are their freedoms at stake here. … I think poker players now more than ever need to figure out ways of getting their voices heard not only through the PPA by also through their own devices.