Organising charity poker tournaments in the same locations and timeframes as US political party conventions has so far paid off in publicity terms for the one million members pro-poker pressure group Poker Players Alliance. With the Republican Party national convention just over the horizon, the group's activities at the Democrat Party's event in Denver last week attracted wide industry and mainstream publicity, which this week spilled over into the influential business news agency Bloombergs.
In an interesting article titled "Internet Poker Fans Are Playing Politics at Party Conventions," Bloombergs reported that in an effort to overturn the UIGEA, gamblers started the PPA, established a political action committee, and promoted their effort to politicians by holding poker tournaments at the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions.
The piece quotes poker pro Andy Bloch as saying: "Up until this point, the minority of the public that is anti-gambling has yelled louder. We're trying to change that.''
Bloombergs gives an accurate and balanced background to the political initiative, including the manner in which the UIGEA was rammed through Congress in the last hours before a late night recess, and describes the consequences for companies and investors in companies forced to pull out of the major US market.
It goes on to outline political assaults on the UIGEA such as those mounted by Democrat Congressman Barney Frank, who is quoted as saying he expects his Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act which would legalise online gambling in the US to pass in next year's Democrat controlled Congress.
Frank, Bloch, and actor Ben Affleck were among almost 200 participants during last week's Democratic National Convention at a tournament benefiting the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Bloombergs reports that the Washington-based PPA set up 20 tables with cards, chips and professional dealers in a second-floor room at Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team. Players got buttons reading: `Reduce your carbon footprint. Play online poker.''
"We're trying to make this a larger political force,'' Toby Moffett, a lobbyist and former Connecticut Democratic congressman who represents the poker group and urged it to sponsor the convention events told the agency. "It shows our supporters we're not going away.''
Gamblers say the [UIGEA] law violates individual rights. "It's a bad idea for legislators to tell people what they can and cannot do in the privacy of their own homes,'' said poker pro Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson during a lobbying trip to Washington last fall.
Bloomberg reports that the poker alliance spent $729 750 on lobbying during the first half of 2008, after spending $900 000 in all of 2007. Its political action committee, PokerPAC, began April 11 and raised $43 226 through Aug. 12.
Top poker player such as Annie Duke and Howard Lederer are also quoted, backing PPA efforts with both their celebrity fame and hard cash donations.
"It always helps when you have someone who's very well known,'' said Representative Steve Israel, a New York Democrat and one of 48 co-sponsors of Frank's IGREA bill. "When I'm at home, it always give me a thrill when someone approaches me and says, `I read about what you're doing on Internet poker.' That tells me how effective this cause has become.''