Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fly on the Wall: Listening in the Al D'Amato/PPA Teleconference

There is, in the greater context of the world, such a thing as 'reluctant participation.' You know the drill --- you realize you've got to be there, but there's no enthusiasm to be had in the chore. Thursday's webcast conference hosted by the Poker Players Alliance, featuring new PPA Chairman of the Board Alfonse D'Amato, was an almost perfect example. I couldn't see what they had to announce that amounted to real news, but hey, I've been wrong on these things before....

So, I made sure I had myself registered and had appropriate viewing software installed, and for its part, the PPA had set up a well-structured and fairly straightforward registration system. All cool. I pulled an accidental Hellmuth, getting sidetracked as the thing was getting underway and missing the first few minutes, important when one considers that the show was only going to be on for a half hour, anyway. From the tone of the questions, however, it looked like I reached the fun just as whatever introductory fluff was deemed necessary had been dispensed with.

Not that the introductory fluff, whatever it was, would have been any more or less fluffy than the rest of it. As I said, I couldn't figure out what the purpose of the thing was, except to serve as a fundraiser. Despite this, though, it's always fun to see a polished pro such as the venerated 'Pothole Al' waxing eloquent without a great deal to say. Kinda like this post... it was much ado about not too much at all.

Al was in practiced form, too. While PPA president Bolcerek handled a question or two, that was this webcast's version of Keith Richards singing his two songs at a Rolling Stones concert; no one really cares, and we're all just waiting for Jagger to toss on his new shirt, give his vocal chords a moment's break, and get back to the business at hand. The image at right illustrates this; it's excerpted from the 'Highlights' of the teleconference currently up at the PPA site. However, it's an abridged image itself, as the full teleconference as webcasted showed Bolcerek seated on the same office divan, to D'Amato's right (or the viewer's left).

One thing I was curious about would be mentions of the phrase "poker carve-out," long a primary directive of sorts for the PPA in the wake of the signing into law of the UIGEA. Matter of fact, with news just breaking that day about Barney Frank not including an exception for poker in his pending efforts to have the UIGEA repealed, it was likely to be the only point of interest in the whole darn thing. Frank, for what it's worth, had seemingly been anointed the Savior of Online Poker --- which was probably news to him. The truth about Barney Frank is that poker is of use to him only as long as it serves his short-term politicsl expediency, nothing more. So I'm happy to see his anti-UIGEA efforts, but I don't expect much from him beyond that.

Back to the PPA webcast. D'Amato, it seemed, was warming up to the show, dishing out broad proclamations on the topic in the form of answers to a series of pre-selected questions as submitted by PPA members. A couple of these quotes may be inexact, given that I was just hand-jotting many of them, but capture the spirit of the affair. On the topic of legalized poker itself, D'Amato orated, "I thought we needed less government, not more government," then followed it up with a pointed comment aimed at the dollars in play, referencing that the U.S. government might be "losing the opportunity to raise as much as $3 billion a year."

Good stuff, and obviously due to be worked in front of cash-greedy politicians as often as possible. Ultimately, that's the only reason that the online game will be legalized: it represents an easy sin-tax revenue source for the government to tap.

Not much on a poker carve-out, though. If it was in there, I missed it.... But call it a hunch --- I think it'll be disappearing from the forefront of PPA efforts in a big hurry, given other developments.

D'Amato talked about how the PPA's membership was north of 320,000 and climbing toward a million, the point at which D'Amato believes that poker players can become an effective political force. But D'Amato also admitted (in approximate terms) that poker was unlikely to be enthusiastic embraced by large numbers of politicians and that the switch from a Republican to a Democratic Congress changed little for the short-term outlook of the online game.

Perhaps the most curious moment was when D'Amato admitted that he'd recently visited the Isle of Man to get a closer look at how online poker is licensed and regulated in that environment, which makes one wonder if he didn't stop by the headquarters of someone like Poker Stars, too.

He also mentioned that he'd seen Frank's proposed legislation, and noted that there was no specific mention of poker in the bill Frank will soon introduce. That makes the timing of the PPA conference a bit curious, seeing as how it occurred just hours after the Reuters piece appeared confirming that the Frank legislation had no special mention of poker. Reading between the lines, it may well be that Frank's announcement via Reuters had been planned for more than a week, as had the PPA's press conference, the quicker to begin established a 'no poker carve-out' new direction. I'm not much of a believer in political coincidences.

Still, the dog-and-pony show continued. For what it's worth, the PPA now seems boxed into what its goals really should be, after all --- promoting poker as both a legitimate, popular entertainment, and espousing its potential as a revenue source to a government too venal and greedy to look the other way for long. That's a PPA I might even be able to support, now that this other nonsense is being stripped away.

As for the teleconference, the questions were selected and sorted for maximum Al effect. The capper gave him the all-too-obvious opportunity to make a sweeping closing statement, which is why it was reserved for the purpose. As to why D'Amato took up the chairmanship of the PPA, he offered this: "I love the game of poker, and I think it's wrong to discriminate against poker players and say that you cannot play poker over the Internet."

That baby was gift-wrapped, all right.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Great article. Solid writing. Sorry, I had to get out of the way first, since I'm a fan of good writing. Doesn't matter what it's about, so long as the writing is good.

But yeah, I agree with you on all your points. But maybe that's due to my cynicism when it comes to politicians.