Friday, October 31, 2008

Poker World All In For Obama

I'm working on a World Series of Poker final table preview this week and something surprising came up while doing interviews that can't really wait until Nov. 9, when my piece runs.

The poker world is apparently rooting for Barack Obama. The Poker Players Alliance, the industry's lobbyist group with 1 million members and a $1.3 million annual budget, did not endorse either candidate, but consider this comment from PPA Executive Director John Pappas:
"There is a sense that Obama would be better for the poker community. He has a lot of support from the professional poker-playing community."

Pappas acknowledged that neither Obama or John McCain have taken official positions on the most important issue of all, the future of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The UIGEA barred American Internet poker players from using their credit cards or bank accounts to fund their play, there are reasons to believe that Obama would be better. Among those, Obama is known to be an avid poker player who plays to relax on the campaign trail and also watches TV poker.

As for McCain, it's widely known that he enjoys gambling in brick-and-mortar casinos, but he's not known to be much of a poker guy. He has, however, said he would defer on the Internet poker law in question, to his Arizona colleague Sen. John Kyl. Kyl was actually instrumental in sneaking the poker measure onto the ports security act.

It is worth noting that heads of major casino companies and the head of the American Gaming Association have given generously to McCain. They don't, however, have the singularity of purpose that the PPA has; they deal with all sorts of gaming, taxation, labor and other issues that those representing the poker industry don't. So it's not really a fair comparison and it's also probably inappropriate to wonder if this represents a schism between the poker world and its Internet powerhouses and the broader gaming world and its brick-and-mortar interests.

Steve Lipcomb, the founder and CEO of the World Poker Tour, backed up Pappas' contention but said he thinks that a change in administration will help no matter which candidate is elected. Although the 2006 law passed and several online poker companies stopped operating in the U.S., others have continued while the Justice Department works out what the actual rules ought to be and how to enforce the measure.

"My hope is that what will happen is that the next administration will be less prone to care about this stuff and we might be able to get some rational taxation and regulation so that we can go forward," Lipcomb said in an interview from Budapest, where he's attending the World Poker Congress convention.

Still, Lipcomb said, the Democrats are likely to be more favorable. It is, after all, Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who has attacked the ban from the start, and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who has used his perch as chair of the House Banking Committee to try to get it undone. (Former GOP Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York chairs the PPA board, though, so there is a bipartisan effort afoot here.)

"There’s no doubt there would be a more open approach from a different party," Lipcomb said. "The Republicans have been more prone to moral legislation and the like. Probably if the Democrat in the White House, it would be better for us."

Obama illustration courtesy of the New Yorker's Tom Bachtell


RJ Guy said...

more great coverage from friess. thanks for filling in the MSM gaps.

Jay4Liberty said...

Wow. Supporting someone because they'd be good for poker? Might be hard to play poker when our pockets are empty, but that's a government problem, not a particular party problem.

As always, great article. I enjoy reading your blog.

joey said...

because everyone's doing so well under the Republicans, huh, jay?

Jay4Liberty said...

I didn't say that. Sorry that's what you read into it. It's a government problem. The more government, the worse off everyone will eventually be. I'm all for opening up all avenues of gambling but it's not something I use to determine who would govern best.

I'd prefer a None Of The Above (NOTA) option on the ballot November 4th. Since there isn't I won't be wasting my time with either one of them.