Attention Online Poker Players: The World Is Run By Those Who Show Up

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Internet poker players in the United States find themselves in their current predicament precisely because those who were opposed to internet gaming showed up, paid the price of admission, and got what they wanted from their government.

Two and a half years past Black Friday, and seven years beyond the UIGEA, the players themselves still, by and large, remain on the sidelines.

Political engagement by poker players more relevant now than ever

But with the cause of  licensed and regulated internet poker in the USA now taking hold at the state level, poker players see, perhaps, their best opportunity yet to engage directly in the political process, and to have a hand in restoring their freedom to play their game online by lobbying their state governments.

While the PPA maintains it’s strategy of focusing on states where the fight is well underway, in most states there is little to no effort at all.

Players in those states are left  either waiting for, and being satisfied with, whatever and whenever it comes along, or stepping up themselves and lobbying for their issue at the state level.

Concurrent efforts in all states is the shortest distance between where we are and where we want to be.

Lobbying is not a four-letter word

The term lobbying carries a bit of a negative connotation to it. It is largely seen as the method by which big business controls our government. And while there may be some truth to that, it is a rather cynical view of the practice by which the people are able to petition their government to act in their interests.

Lobbying at the state level is where citizens can be most effective in moving the government in the direction they want it to go. Individuals as well as organized efforts stand a far greater chance of achieving their goals than they would at the federal level. If you are not lobbying for your cause, and your opponents are, you can be sure that it is their voice that will be heard, not yours.

Lobbying comes in many forms, the most obvious is the use of hired firms who can work full time on issues important to their clients. This is virtually a necessity, given that our opponents are sure to be represented. It is also expensive, with firms charging in the $50-100K range, per cycle. Raising that kind of money makes interest groups essential to specific causes. But there is more that the individual can do.

State representatives are much more amenable servants of the people than members of Congress. Some starting points:

  • Just having a telephone conversation, or better yet a face to face meeting, with your state representative is a powerful step towards achieving your goals, and literally costs nothing.
  • Donating to the campaigns of candidates who are supportive of your cause is another way to help sway your state legislature towards your side of the issues.
  • Legislative seats come up for election every cycle. Defeating legislators opposed to internet poker legislation, and electing those in favor, is a vital step in the process.
  • Volunteering on the campaign committee of pro-poker legislative candidates also puts you and your message front and center.

Washington State a prime example of missed opportunities

Being from the State of Washington, with the harshest position on internet poker playing of any in the nation, it is disheartening  that here  there is not a single organization currently lobbying for internet poker. The Public Disclosure Commission in Washington does a very thorough job of assuring that lobbying is done with complete transparency. You can search their site and find out who is lobbying, who and what they are lobbying for, and how much money is changing hands.

Absent is any representation of the internet poker player of any kind. The PPA has not done any lobbying here since 2011. And the upstart Washington Internet Poker Initiative has had little success in raising money and support.

Washington’s native tribes lobby year in and year out. Non-tribal card rooms also have an active PAC in the Recreational Gaming Association. With internet poker players not even represented in the discussion, we have left our fate in the hands of those interests who show up. It certainly doesn’t have to be that way.

With an effective, organized lobbying effort, we can get the message out to our elected officials. Organizing such a top-down effort, however,  has proven to be difficult. Success is tied to getting those concerned to actually take part in the process. And as the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Unless the players are concerned enough to participate in the process, success will remain elusive, and players will have to be content with whatever someone else decides we should have.

It’s been said that you don’t recruit people into politics, rather you hold the door open for them. Well, the door is open – come on in.

- Curtis is a recreational poker player from Seattle, WA who advocates for state ipoker legislation. He is the founder of the Washington Internet Poker Initiative and sponsor of Initiatives 582 and 583. Catch him on Twitter at @curtinsea and @ipokerwa (WIPI).
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