In a recent interview with CalvinAyre.com’s Becky Liggero, Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas briefly discussed the PPA’s stance on the “poker as a skill game” argument. Most notably, Pappas said it really was not a factor in his discussions on Capitol Hill.
The interview was framed around last year’s United States of America v. Lawrence Dicristina case, in which Dicristina was convicted of operating a gambling business under the Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA) of 1970. In August 2012, the decision was reversed by Judge Jack Weinstein of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, who agreed with the defenses arguments that a) the IGBA was ambiguous and poker was not intended to be included as an illegal game, and b) poker is a game of skill.
This August, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York overturned Judge Weinstein’s ruling, saying that the IGBA was not ambiguous and that poker was, in fact, illegal gambling. The panel did not, however, reverse the decision that poker is a game of skill.
Liggero asked Pappas for an update on the case. Pappas clarified that the PPA was not involved in any sort of decision as to whether or not Dicristina should appeal; that is entirely up to him. The PPA also does not contribute any money to Dicristina’s defense. The PPA has and will, though, assist Dicristina by providing him with access to subject matter experts, as well as provide him with general support.
The interview continued on the skill argument track, at which point Pappas felt inclined to clarify the role of said argument in the PPA’s quest for the legalization of online poker in the United States. He said that while the PPA wants everyone to agree that poker is a game of skill, that is a tangential point in their discussions with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Said Pappas:
To be clear, the question of whether poker is a game of skill is a legal question. I don’t want it confused that this is the way we believe we are going to get regulation and licensing in the U.S. The reason you’re going to get licensing in the U.S. is because of consumer protection and potential revenues for states. And those are the arguments. I don’t go and talk to lawmakers and talk about poker being a game of skill. It is a talking point. It is a way we separate poker from casino-style games.
Essentially, Pappas is saying that it is, of course, nice if lawmakers side with the PPA on the skill-game argument, but that’s not what it is going to get online poker legalized and regulated in the country. The PPA is attempting to appeal to legislators’ desire to keep consumers and their funds safe and their need to bring in more tax revenue. These are things that are much easier to lay out in concrete terms, whereas the skill argument has more opinion and subtlety and is therefore harder to prove. Plus, when talking to someone who is anti-gambling, it is easier to convince them that we need to keep people safe from the bad guys than it is to convince them that no, it’s not really gambling.