Poker Players Alliance Targets Political Jokers

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) has announced its 2014 edition of “The Jokers,” a listing of 22 politicians who have advocated to prohibit online poker in the United States, either at the federal or state level, and are up for election this year. The PPA is urging site visitors who reside in the states of the respective politicians to contact those lawmakers prior to Election Day on Tuesday to express their opinion on controversial legislation regarding online poker. The announcement concludes by suggesting that, “It’s time to take the ‘jokers’ out of the deck!”

The site is specifically targeting all politicians who have supported the efforts of Las Vegas Sands casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who has previously donated millions to politicians and specific causes. Last year, Adelson said he would be willing to spend “whatever it takes” to stop online gambling. Sen. Lindsey Graham was the lone member of the United States Senate in the group, and is joined at the top of the list by Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Both are lead sponsors in their respective chambers of Congress in support of legislation to ban US Internet poker, and are allied with the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.  They are not without opposition however, as we describe in our article about Online Gambling Proponents Outspending Adelson 4 to 1.

Graham and Chaffetz are supporting The Restoration of America’s Wire Act bill (S. 2159, H.R. 4301), which was introduced on March 26 of this year, and would expand the Wire Act of 1961 by prohibiting state-level licensing and regulation of online poker. Originally, the law was primarily directed at stopping the influence of organized crime. Joining Chaffetz in the House are 15 other congressman, listed by party: Republican: Charles Dent (Pennsylvania), Randy Forbes (Virginia), Trent Franks (Arizona), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Trey Gowdy (South Carolina), George Holding (North Carolina), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Steve King (Iowa), James Lankford (Oklahoma), Mike Rogers (Michigan) and Lamar Smith (Texas). Democrat: Emanuel Cleaver (Missouri), Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Daniel Lipinski (Illinois) and Cedric Richmond (Louisiana).

Two incumbent governors, Rick Scott of Florida and Nikki Haley of South Carolina, made the official PPA joker list, while Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley rounds out the trio. Scott and Haley wrote letters in support of the two bills, while Coakley has made a number of public statements against online poker and gaming. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was one of 15 state attorneys general that signed a letter asking for a federal ban on online poker. Another politician at the state level, Pennsylvania state senator Mario Scavello is the lead sponsor of a bill that would criminalize online poker.

Breaking down the overall group by political affiliation, there are 17 Republicans and five Democrats on the list, with 16 members from the House of Representatives dominating the group. The Graham and Chaffetz bills are not being debated and there are no signs that any vote is imminent. However, online poker supporters fear that the legislation could be passed during the lame duck session, which begins after next week’s election and concludes at the end of 2014.