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FairPlayUSA Launches, Joins Push for Online Poker

2004 WSOP Champion Greg Raymer on Board of Advisors


FairPlayUSA, a non-profit campaign based in Washington D.C., has joined the push for licensed and regulated online poker in the United States. The organization, funded by casino giants Caesars and MGM, launched on Tuesday.

The group’s website states that its goal “is to educate policymakers and the public on the broad public policy interests raised by the current ambiguous laws in the U.S. that have led to millions of Americans gambling on the Internet.”

The initial members of its advisory board include Tom Ridge, the former Governor of Pennsylvania and first Secretary of Homeland Security; Parry Aftab, an Internet safety expert; and 2004 World Series of Poker main event champion Greg Raymer. The group is headed by Executive Director Marisa McNee.

Raymer, who also serves on the board of directors for the Poker Player’s Alliance (PPA), said he was hesitant at first before committing to FairPlayUSA. He said he eventually became sure that the non-lobbying group could help the push for federal legislation.

“Down the round if there was a conflict between what is best for these companies and what is best for the players that might be a concern,” said Raymer, who is unpaid for his position with FairPlayUSA. “However, I was convinced that the interests of the players and the interests of the people starting this organization are aligned, at least at this point in time.” According to Raymer, the group is looking to other brick-and-mortar casinos to join. “This isn’t just about [Caesars and MGM],” he added.

The group’s first of 10 principles, which reads “Strengthen the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 to unambiguously eliminate illegal Internet gambling,” has drawn some criticism this week from the poker community. Raymer said that efforts to bring forth a federal solution need to be about compromise — and that the group’s first principle has been interpreted as “clearing the road” for the big casinos, but that isn’t how the language was intended to read.

Greg Raymer"As a practical matter, in order to get support from people like [Senator Jon] Kyl and [Representative Spencer] Bachus, we need to give them something they want,” Raymer said. “And they want to stop online gambling. So, we convince them poker is a game of skill, and that it should be licensed and regulated, and in return the same legislation makes it easier for the [Department of Justice] to stop both other forms of online gambling, as well as unlicensed poker sites, from doing business in the US. So, strengthening the UIGEA is not code for get rid of PokerStars and Full Tilt and such; it is strengthen the UIGEA against non-poker online gambling, and against sites that don’t come and get licenses. This principle has nothing to do with who should get a license.”

Raymer said that FairPlayUSA does not endorse Joe Barton’s online poker bill, or any other piece of legislation, at this point in time. “We are just endorsing the creation of some legislation that will specifically allow for licensed and regulated online poker for Americans. So, we are not trying to differentiate between bills, and saying that ‘this bill is bad, and this one is good.’ We are trying to mobilize as many people as possible to tell Congress that they need to regulate online poker.”

John Pappas, executive director of the PPA, issued a statement on the launch of FairPlayUSA, saying that his organization was pleased to see another group join the fight.

“FairPlayUSA will be made up of variety of non-poker constituencies and can help the PPA deliver a powerful message to Capitol Hill that regulation will strengthen consumer protections and aid law enforcement,” Pappas said. "We look forward to working with FairPlayUSA to keep the interests of the poker playing community at the forefront, and we hope they will add their support to current and future legislation that provides for a safe, competitive and thriving Internet poker market in the U.S.”



over 10 years ago

You'll never get Kyl and Bachus to agree to anything remotely connected to games of skill (or chance). Card players are tools of the devil to these pillars of the Christian right and founding fathers of the party of 'no' movement. Barton's bill is the best chance. The fact that a Republican (with many bipartisan co-sponsors) is willing to put forward a bill is a huge step forward. Getting poker legal will require the liberterian sect of the GOP, not the religious right.