August 31 – Since the passage of HR 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, a great deal of attention has turned to the proponents and opponents of online poker. One unusual foe stands out, namely Commerce Casino’s Tom Malkasian. Following his critical testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, Malkasian is now sparring with the Poker Players over support for online poker legislation.
During his controversial testimony before the House committee, Malkasian suggested that poker rooms like PokerStars and Full Tilt can be likened to drug cartels, saying, “certainly no one would suggest that the first federal permits to sell it (marijuana) should go to the Tijuana drug cartel since they have the most money and experience in marketing and distributing the product.” He suggested other concerns with the opt-out timing for the states and “illegal” foreign sites sections of the Barney Frank (D-MA) bill. Both of these concerns ended up being addressed in amendments to the bill that went to the full House.
The online poker community saw a different angle in Commerce’s stand. “The concerns they raised seem to have been addressed, and I would assume they should now support the bill,” said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance. “I think the only logical conclusion is they are scared to compete, not only with offshore sites but with Harrah’s, Google, and anyone else who would want to get involved. They would prefer an intrastate monopoly in California rather than be subject to a global competition marketplace.”
Commerce board members Malkasian and Haig Papaian replied in a statement, “America’s poker community should be united in opposing the Frank legislation that would ship jobs, revenue and taxes beyond our communities. We need to work together to keep American dollars at home.”
Not only has the Commerce Casino stand put it at odds with the PPA, a growing number of players are coming out against the California casino, even suggesting a boycott of the popular poker location.
To date, more than 1,100 players have attached their names to a letter outlining their position on the casino’s opposition to HR 2267. UB.com pro Annie Duke recently wrote, “I and some other pros are boycotting them (Commerce Casino) as well. I will give my business to a place that supports the players.”
“If I was a professional player endorsed by a site, I’d be very concerned by their comments comparing existing operators to a drug cartel,” Pappas said. “So what are the players who are sponsored by those sites? Are they drug mules? Hopefully from the response to this letter they will understand that their position is not a popular one among the poker community.”