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Poker Power

New organization backed by U.S. land-based casino companies formed

Poker Power

A new coalition called FairPlayUSA has recently formed with a mission to persuade lawmakers to regulate online poker and crack down on illegal internet gambling. FairPlayUSA, whose advisory board includes former Homeland Security chief and ex-Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, as well as professional poker player Greg Raymer and child-safety advocate Parry Aftab, is a self-proclaimed “grassroots” lobbying group designed to push Congress to fully legalize online poker and to clarify the nation’s online gambling laws.

The Washington, D.C.-based group has launched a new website, www.FairPlayUSA.com, which outlines its plan “to educate the public and policymakers on the need to reform internet gambling laws in three key areas: strong law enforcement and strict regulation, consumer and child protection, and the rights of adults to play online poker.”

The website lists the group’s 10 Principles, which include strengthening the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 as well as a “crackdown on unlicensed foreign operators who do not comply with U.S. law.” The website also includes a petition that encourages U.S. poker players to sign, which FairPlayUSA intends to eventually submit to Congress.

According to the group’s Executive Director Marisa McNee, “The website and online petition will be the focal point for recruiting and organizing supporters who will actively engage and make their voices heard by members of Congress. Outreach will be directed toward law enforcement officials, those who support internet consumer safety, and online poker’s strongest asset—the millions of Americans who enjoy online poker.”

McNee has stated that the group does not support any specific bill, but they do support a federal regulatory body to oversee poker at the national level.

“I wholeheartedly endorse having policymakers clearly define what is illegal internet gambling and giving law enforcement the tools necessary to enforce such a ban. I also strongly support the strict regulation of online poker. Americans who choose to play poker against each other on the internet should be assured that the games are fair and limited to adults,” said Ridge.

FairPlayUSA has received its initial funding from land-based casino owners Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts.

Experts say the group is the land-based gaming industry’s answer to the Poker Players Alliance, which was formed by offshore online casinos about six years ago. The PPA’s initial funding largely came from the indicted companies, principally PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. Since the indictment, the clout of the PPA has been diminished and its reputation tarnished. FairPlayUSA carries none of the baggage that now weighs down PPA.

Nonetheless, PPA welcomed the arrival of FairPlayUSA.

“On behalf of our 1.2 million members nationwide, the PPA is pleased to see another group dedicated to restoring and protecting Americans’ freedom to play internet poker,” the organization said in a press release. “The PPA has been at the leading edge of the fight for U.S. regulation for nearly six years, and we welcome the addition of another voice—and one that represents a new constituency—to the chorus of supporters for a sensible federal policy towards online poker.”

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