Interest group may pivot to include sports betting issues

Poker Players Alliance Director Steps Down As Group Deals With Less Funding

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The Poker Players’ Alliance (PPA) announced a leadership change within the organization as it faces decreasing financial support.

Executive Director John Pappas will relinquish his role at the end of the month, ending a decade-long tenure. Rich Muny, the current vice president, will take over the group’s top spot when Pappas departs.

The PPA, which has been lobbying for the interests of US online poker players since 2005, has a database of more than a million members.

Why is Pappas leaving?

Pappas has been the face of the PPA for more than ten years, speaking at countless meetings with lawmakers and industry stakeholders. He’s helped in the crafting of online poker bills across the country. So why is he leaving now?

The press release that broke the news hints at the reason for his departure.

Over the past several months, the PPA has been adjusting to a significant reduction in financial support from the internet gaming industry and thusly has refocused its efforts on cost effective grassroots advocacy.

In an interview with GamblingCompliance, Pappas put an even finer point on the matter. “The organization’s funding has been reduced, and I am unable to continue on in my current capacity,” he said succinctly.

The PPA is a non-profit organization funded by donations and private contracts. The gaming industry has been steadily pulling back its financial support for the organization in recent years, though. Much of the poker-specific lobbying work has already been done in the US, and pennies are being pinched across the industry. Online poker giant PokerStars is widely presumed to have footed much of the bill in the past.

Going forward, the PPA will rely on what it calls “cost effective grassroots advocacy.”

Thoughts from the PPA

In the press release, Pappas gave his thoughts on his impending departure:

There has never been greater momentum than right now for the advancement of sensible internet gaming policy in the U.S. Whether lawmakers are considering poker, casino gambling or even sports betting, a strong and organized grassroots effort will be critical to legislative success.

I am proud of the work I have done with the PPA board of directors and the amazing PPA staff to bring us to this point. I will miss working for the poker community on a day-to-day basis, but I am confident that the PPA will continue its great work with Rich Muny at the helm.

Poker Hall of Fame member Linda Johnson is a figurehead for the PPA herself, and she’s worked closely with Pappas for the duration of his tenure. Johnson gushed about the mark he’s made on the industry.

John is a tremendous leader and a true professional. Under his guidance, PPA has emerged as a policy advocacy and grassroots powerhouse in Washington D.C. and in state capitals across the country. For almost a decade, he has been the political voice and face of the poker community and regulated internet gaming advocates. He leaves the organization in a strong position to continue to ensure that consumer voices drive the internet gaming debate.

Pappas will remain on the PPA’s board of directors and continue with the group in an advisory role to his successor.

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PPA jumping into sports betting?

In addition to the shifting of poker roles, the PPA is also considering a new project. According to the press release, the organization is ramping up its efforts surrounding the legalization of sports betting.

With changes to federal and state laws governing sports betting being considered this year, it is important to know if PPA’s large and organized advocacy efforts can be leveraged to assist consumers as new public policy around sports betting is established.

In many states, the focus has moved from online gambling to sports betting in anticipation of a favorable ruling in the New Jersey US Supreme Court case. The PPA is currently trying to determine whether its services could be useful to the cause.

To that end, the group has distributed a sports betting survey to its million-plus members. It also published a new landing page so that constituents can keep tabs on the legislative process.

It’s not quite ready to jump into a fresh battle just yet, though.

To be clear, we are not taking any formal action or position on sports betting at this time. We first want to know what you think.

If it does choose to lobby on sports betting in the future, the PPA will be wading. The MLB and NBA have retained their own lobbyists in at least six states so far.

- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.
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