I Don’t Get the PPA

Here is the email that the PPA sent out to members late yesterday. I sort of mulled it over a bit to give it time to sink in but I still don’t get it.

Now Is the Time We Fight Back!

Dear William,

April 15, 2011 will forever be a dark day for the online poker community. Seemingly out of nowhere the U. S. Department of Justice (DoJ) took from us the ability to play online poker on many of the websites we have grown to trust. While the target of DoJ’s action is on the Internet poker companies and not the player, the poker community is being adversely affected by this prosecution.

These recent developments should be viewed as nothing less than a declaration of war against poker and the people who play the game. It is a clarion call to all poker players to take action. We cannot sit idly by and wait for this issue to resolve itself. We need to let U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder know we are disappointed with his decision to shut down trusted Internet poker sites in the United States and we need to again remind Congress and President Obama that now is the time to pass sensible legislation that licenses and regulates Internet poker in this country.

Today is no day to be a passive poker player. Your right to your personal property has been trampled on and your recreation, and in some cases livelihoods has been jeopardized. We need to fight and seize back what is rightfully ours.

The PPA wants you and every poker player to take action this week. Please go to this specially created PPA Action Page to learn what you should do. If every person who loves poker takes a few minutes to take these actions we will make a huge impact. Your support of PPA in these efforts ultimately supports your right to play!

Thank you for your continuing support.

Proud to Play
Senator Alfonse D’Amato

That’s the message in its entirety. Now let’s just look at what was said:

Seemingly out of nowhere the U. S. Department of Justice (DoJ) took from us the ability to play online poker on many of the websites we have grown to trust.

Out of nowhere? For nearly a year we’ve been hearing about possible secret grand jury indictments being in the works. If this is out of nowhere for the PPA then I have to question how close to the ground they have their ears.

Likewise, what is with the statement that the DOJ took our ability to play online poker on websites we’ve grown to trust? If the allegations against Stars, Tilt, and Cereus are true then the sites themselves are responsible for taking away our right to play online poker on their sites as, again, if the allegations are true, they engaged in money laundering and bank fraud. They’re not being charged with jaywalking. These are serious crimes. If Amazon had a side business of dealing kiddie porn would the PPA defend Amazon’s site shutdown by saying that the DOJ has stolen consumer rights to purchase reasonably priced books and other merchandise online? Should all crimes be overlooked as long as you provide a valuable service as well?

These recent developments should be viewed as nothing less than a declaration of war against poker and the people who play the game.

First, it’s online poker that they’re targeting. Not all poker. As far as I know there have been no FBI raids of the Bicycle Club, Commerce, or any Vegas poker rooms.

And the declaration of war (if it was that) is not against the players. It’s against companies who allegedly laundered money and bribed banks. Was a single online poker player been arrested on Black Friday? No. Were any online poker players indicted? No.

We need to let U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder know we are disappointed with his decision to shut down trusted Internet poker sites in the United States and we need to again remind Congress and President Obama that now is the time to pass sensible legislation that licenses and regulates Internet poker in this country.

Wait, hold on a second there. You just said that the DOJ has declared war on us. That’s pretty serious. When someone says, “I am declaring war on you,” I hardly think an appropriate response is to express my “disappointment.” Words like outrage, anger, and so on seem more appropriate if you’re going to use rhetoric like declaring war.

Thank goodness that the PPA was not running the country on December 7, 1941. Instead of the inspirational and moving words uttered by President Roosevelt below the PPA would have whipped the US people into a state of severe disappointment with Japan.

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounded determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

And why does D’Amato repeat the phrase “trusted” when referring to the websites that have been shut down. Is he unaware that Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker have been involved in some of the most untrustworthy actions a poker room could commit? How are rooms that have backdoors allowing employees and high-level management in the company to conspire and cheat against other opponents classified as “trusted”?

And again, if the charges hold to be true, is the PPA saying that companies that commit bank fraud and money laundering are trusted?

I mean, this couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that the NY Times reports about the PPA, “Its budget is subsidized by a Canadian trade association whose members include the companies that run Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker,” could it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the PPA. However we shouldn’t sugarcoat the facts just because they may be inconvenient. And we certainly should not be standing by poker rooms that may have committed crimes. I’m not saying they did, however, if the interests of the PPA are with the players there is no need to even defend the online poker sites in question.

Now is the time for the PPA to show that it’s on the side of the players. Point out that if there was proper legislation in place companies wouldn’t need to deal with unscrupulous payment processors and put player money at risk. Don’t muddy the message by calling Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker sites that are “trusted.” It completely destroys the credibility of everything you say after that. Don’t spend half your email doing a PR job for Stars and Tilt if you are supposed to be standing up for the rights of players.

Though I, in general, agree with the overall stated goals of the PPA and I’ve bent the ear of former PPA president Michael Bolcerek several times in the past, I have lost confidence in them as a leader in this fight. Yes, they’ve done some good work but this sort of email and the same old talking points interviews John Pappas gave over the weekend worries me that there is no real plan. They want me to express disappointment (BTW, the PPA really needs to purchase a thesaurus. Just look through their news releases and see how many times they use the word “disappointment.”? Really? Is that the best the PPA can do?

Editor’s Note: Added the link to the Pokerati story (citing The Financial Times) saying that Full Tilt was under federal grand jury investigation a year ago. Thanks @ShaneSchleger

12 thoughts on “I Don’t Get the PPA”

  1. I don’t think we should even mention UIGEA. So far Bodog, Cake, Doyles Room, etc. are all still up and running. In addition to poker, I play cribbage online for money, as well as backgammon. I know there are chess websites that have tournaments for money.

    This is all American politics, meaning there is something else driving the adgenda. The big three may have all committed fraud and/or laundering of some kind and if so, they should be held accountable.

    But for Christ sake let the people who actually make a living by playing online poker get their money out so they can continue somewhere else.

    Great post Bill, thank you. It got me more stirred up than the stupid PPA email.


  2. Very interesting – and my point (I don’t think I was clear on this) wasn’t that money laundering isn’t to be taken seriously – but that it was woven into the basic business practice of the industry in the US.

  3. @Michael: I just listened to an iGaming broadcast and the gaming attorney on the panel felt that the money laundering and bank fraud charges are the charges that will be the hardest to fight. It’s like tax evasion and Al Capone.

  4. This “money laundering” thing is such a red herring. You realize that the act of depositing on a poker site through a payments processor is, in and of itself, money laundering? At least it is from a certain perspective. “Money laundering” in this context isn’t some big scary thing – it’s the basic mechanism through which players deposited and received payments.

  5. Hello, how ya doin’. Just wanted to add a tid-bit if I could.

    Seems to me that the UIGEA violation had always been there, and could have been used years before. I think it was pretty obvious that all three companies were still “allowing” U.S. players to play, even if it was under the radar. The FBI just didn’t have the proper evidence. Low and behold, the charges of bank fraud and money laundering come to play.

    Whether or not these allegations are true, it won’t be solved anytime soon…unfortunately. That’s an educated guess on grounds that Full Tilt has already stated that they believe online poker (among other games) is/are “Legal”. That tells me they want to fight the charges. Not to mention even if they didn’t, the U.S. Legal System…ahem…sucks.

    Sorry, that was a little long winded. Nevertheless it was my opinion. Even though it wasn’t asked. 🙂



    P.S: Any advice you could give me on my own blog site, would be appreciated, thank you.

  6. The problem with the PPA is that they they have never lobbied for the sake of swiftest possible regulation. They’ve lobbied for a particular kind of regulation – or even lobbied against regulation attempts that didn’t fit a couple of criteria they’ve found worth fighting for.

    Anyone who dedicates time to engaging that many people towards a single cause deserves a lot of respect, but that doesn’t make them immune to criticism.

    All this pointless talk about war on poker just strenghtens the view that all they were ever doing was to run errands for Full Tilt and Pokerstars.

    Interesting information about the Canadian trade organisation, Bill. Did not know that. Even the obvious is better off being proven I guess.

  7. Committing serious crimes sounds BIG, especially if all they did was to find a way around stupid rules which should not have been in place anyway. Creative accounting and coding in order to provide a service which does not hurt anyone is not a crime in my book.

  8. H-Man: Mobilized for what purpose? To help PokerStars and Full Tilt get a pass to enter the US in a legalized market or to serve the purposes of the actual players? My feeling is that it’s more of the later.

    Also, if you’ve read my other posts you would see that this is about bank fraud and money laundering and not about a UIGEA violation (though they are also charged with that). So if they are breaking those laws what should the DOJ do? Ignore banking laws? Ignore money laundering laws?

    I try to be positive. I can be negative but I’m only negative because the press and PR people paint the rosy side. I want to give the more realistic side based on my experience in the business.

  9. I applaud the PPA for working to get US poker players mobilized. At a time like this online poker in needs people who are going to try and help things rather than just complain for the sake of complaining. The US should not have the right to police the world. Who are they to say no one in the entire world is allowed to visit any of these websites? It’s widely accepted that the UIGEA does not make anything illegal. It attempts to but without defining what is an illegal gambling business it fails in my opinion.

    What occurred on Friday did come out of left field. This was a very bold move on the DOJ’s part and the very first time anyone (to my knowledge) in online poker has ever been charged with anything.

    I’ve read some of your posts and while I think they’re well written, I believe they are too negative. Being positive and helpful is pretty fun too.

  10. Thanks to KevMath: Let me clarify that there have been no raids on offline poker rooms as a result of the DOJ’s actions on Friday. That doesn’t mean an land based casino hasn’t been raided before just that the PPA’s attempt at using a war metaphor makes no sense within the context of poker as a game.

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