PPA Lags Behind Public Fundraising Goal as Self-Imposed Deadline Looms

Updated: March 30th, 2018 by Dev Ops

It’s dire financial times for the Poker Players Alliance [PPA], the self-described grass roots advocacy group for United States-based poker interests. Following the departure in February of its former executive director, John Pappas, and a desperate call by his replacement, Rich Muny, for poker players to donate $25,000 by the end of March to keep the PPA afloat, the funding effort remains far short of its mark.

With just a day to go before the end-of-March deadline, a tracking graphic on the PPA’s “Donate” page shows the organization has raised only $6,015 of its $25,000 goal. Though that graphic hasn’t been updated for at least a couple of days, the larger outlook appears grim: It’s unlikely the lobbying group can continue forward with no workable funds on hand.

Nonetheless, the group continues hoping for last-ditch help. The group has stopped paying any of its employees, up to and including Muny. The PPA formerly received virtually its entire working budget from corporate sources, and the last of those benefactors, PokerStars parent The Stars Group (formerly Amaya, Inc.) seems to have dropped its PPA funding at the end of 2017. That came after the bitter failure of PokerStars and the PPA to move online-gambling and online-poker legalization forward in California, a market vital to The Stars Group’s future US-based plans.

The cutoff of corporate funding led to the immediate decision of former executive director Pappas to jump ship. Pappas, a paid mercenary… errrm, career Washington D.C. lobbyist…  admittedly did some good work over the past couple of years, and he’s agreed to continue to help the PPA on an advisory basis. But that’s an aside at this stage.

It all still leaves the PPA’s future in Rich Muny’s hands. Muny issued an impassioned plea for donations several weeks ago, and he’s also posted the results of a survey showing that poker players also have considerable interest in sports betting, a hot topic given the US Supreme Court’s looming decision in the New Jersey “Christie II” case. A decision in New Jersey’s favor might end the US’s federal-level PASPA ban on sports betting across most of the country.

But for the PPA, it might still be too late to change course. The 13-year-old lobbying organization was never truly a “players” organization. It was founded by people closely associated with the old CardPlayer Magazine business and the PPA’s initial president was Californian Michael Bolcerek.

Bolcerek left the group and Pappas came on board in conjunction with the PPA’s move to Washington, D.C., as part of the PPA’s embracing of deeper corporate funding (Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars) and an attempt to push for pro-online-poker at the federal level.

It was a folly that ended up wasting most of the millions the two online-poker giants funneled into the PPA. Gambling matters have always been a state-level matter in the US, the probably-unconstitutional, ’80s-era PASPA being a bizarre exception. But the hopes for something like the Reid-Kyl bill (actually an embarrassment of a bill), and the wasting of millions on “Pothole” Al D’Amato as a high-profile PPA spokesman just wasted big chunks of money.

It was only when the PPA finally engaged the battle on a state-by-state level, as happened in Pennsylvania, that the group achieved any form of success. Too little, too late, though: By that time, the original Full Tilt Poker was long gone, and PokerStars has been unable to overcome the “bad actor” roadblocks set before in it every US state except New Jersey.

The PPA hasn’t been able to come up with any replacement sponsorship, which would almost certainly have to come from one or more US-based casino corporations. Nor has the PPA been able to convert its million-plus free player memberships into any sort of real revenue stream.

So, it’s likely life-support time for the PPA, even if Muny and the other PPA volunteers are pulling out all the stops. Regarding this last-gasp donation drive, the PPA has offered this:

  • All funds donated go toward our grassroots advocacy program that allows the PPA to alert poker players and connect them to the appropriate elected officials.
  • In order to maximize operating funds, PPA is made up entirely of unpaid volunteers.
  • For the past ten years, PPA has been trusted to empower the political voice of poker players and represent that voice to the media and government. Click here to view a brief history of PPA activism.
  • It is because PPA and poker players have been working together so long that any of PPA’s listed accomplishments are possible, there is legal iPoker in four states, and why expanding access to poker continues to be discussed in legislation today.

It’s mostly true stuff, though a lot of players have taken issue with the third of the four points. Muny’s efforts aside, the past decade has seen the PPA working on behalf of its corporate benefactors most directly, and only “players” per se, when the two groups’ interests aligned. And now, with the corporate money gone, the jig is probably up.

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