PPA shifts lobbying focus to state level; Michigan seeks online partner


ppa-states-michigan-lotteryThe late December announcement by US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that his federal online poker bill was dead as a doornail confirmed what this site has been saying for years now – that decisions re gambling expansion are made at the state level, not in Washington. This truth has been belatedly acknowledged by the Poker Players Alliance lobby group, which published its annual The State of Poker document this week. In it, PPA exec director John Pappas rehashes the latest federal failure, admits that a renewed federal push in 2013 “does not look promising” and concedes that “the fight for Internet poker is moving to the states.” As such, the PPA “will be largely focusing our efforts on passing player-friendly bills in the states where legislative action is brewing.”

Pappas insists the PPA “is not abandoning Washington, DC,” but Pappas told PokerNews.com that “the tables have flipped, where it used to be a 70-30 focus on federal, and I think now it will be more like 30-70.” The top item on the PPA’s current to-do list is lobbying New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to sign the online gambling bill passed by the state legislature in December. To that end, Pappas claims the PPA has been “pounding” Christie’s office on a daily basis. But Pappas believes the “crown jewel” of state poker jurisdictions remains California, thus the PPA is planning “serious grassroots” efforts to convince Golden State lawmakers “there is a voter appeal to these types of proposals.” Actually, California voters are more supportive of legalized sports betting than online poker, but the online poker fight doesn’t require a federal court challenge, so it may prove an easier sell.

Among the other states that may make a concerted push to pass online poker legislation in 2013 is Iowa. Ex-QuadJacks.com host Marco Valerio recently sat down with Iowa Gaming Association president Wes Ehrecke, who stated that the online poker bill introduced last year by State Sen. Jeff Danielson – which passed the Senate but went down to defeat in the House – would be reintroduced this year. Ehrecke thinks much of the House’s vehemently ‘anti’ stance was due to 2012 being an election year, which could make the path to passage a little smoother this year. The next session of the Iowa legislature runs from Jan. 14 to early May.

Meanwhile, Michigan is the latest state lottery to want to take its action online. The Michigan Bureau of State Lottery has issued a request for proposals for the “development, implementation, operational support and maintenance of an iLottery System and iLottery Games.” (Read it here.) Said games don’t include poker, but they do include its “existing array of lottery games (e.g. Instants, Keno, etc.).” To clarify, when ‘instant’ lottery games such as scratchoff tickets are ported over to the internet, they are virtually indistinguishable from slot machines. The fact that Reid’s federal legislation would have unequivocally criminalized online slots (even the pseudo kind) was partly responsible for seven state lottery bosses making a lobbying trip to Washington in December to express their opposition.

Michigan plans to offer its online products via “various digital distribution channels (web, mobile app, mobile web, tablet, social, etc.) in order to maximize consumer participation, convenience and satisfaction.” Which is yet another reason for the federal bill’s failure, as its primary aim appeared to be satisfying Nevada and its resident casino firms, rather than, you know, the people who’d actually be using the product. Michigan hopes its online lottery will boost the state’s coffers by $118m in the first four years and a further $361m in the four years after that.