John Pappas Steps Down as PPA Director

John Pappas, the long-time Executive Director of the Poker Player’s Alliance, has stepped down from his role after more than a decade at the helm. Within days of receiving this news the grassroots organisation was talking about shutting down unless it sees more donations.


Time for Change

The announcement came on the organisation’s website without any reason or explanation.

“Today, the Poker Players Alliance -- the leading poker and internet gaming advocacy group -- announced changes to its leadership, with continued focus on grassroots engagement. At the end of February, John Pappas will step down from his role as the organization’s Executive Director, a position he has held for more than a decade. Pappas will remain on the board of directors and will continue to be a strategic advisor to the PPA. Rich Muny, who currently serves as Vice President, will take on the day-to-day responsibilities in his new role as PPA’s President.”

Pappas has led this outfit since September 2007. His experience in the political arena of the United States has enabled him to keep this fight going a lot longer than it may have if somebody else had been running the show. Since Black Friday Pappas has fought tooth and nail to see the return of around $120 million to the rightful owner, but now the scrap looks to have slowed down somewhat. Is it the right time to hand over the reins to somebody else?


The Best Result Possible

There’s no denying that the seven years since Black Friday have been a terrible time for the American poker community, but there have been some victories. The PPA has managed to drive more than three million constituent contacts to the powers that be via every means possible. Phone calls, emails, social media tap ups, and even turning up at their office in person.

They have played a crucial role in the legalisation of real money online poker in four states, and done a lot to prepare other regions for their fight to achieve the same.

In recent months though, the situation has changed. The level of funding the PPA has received has fallen dramatically after much of the internet gaming industry cut their donations. Is this the real reason for the handover of power?

Pappas sounded more upbeat when he delivered his own statement.

“There has never been greater momentum than right now for the advancement of sensible internet gaming policy in the U.S. Whether lawmakers are considering poker, casino gambling or even sports betting, a strong and organized grassroots effort will be critical to legislative success. I am proud of the work I have done with the PPA board of directors and the amazing PPA staff to bring us to this point. I will miss working for the poker community on a day-to-day basis, but I am confident that the PPA will continue its great work with Rich Muny at the helm.”


Shutting Down?

Even with all this planning for the future, there have been some rumblings that the PPA could decide to call it a day unless $25,000 in donations is received by the end of March 2018. This doesn’t sound much compared to the kind of sums that have been thrown around in this war, but there it is.

“PPA needs your help. In order to continue our advocacy efforts we need to raise $25k before the end of March. Will help us reach our goal?”

While it hasn’t been confirmed, it is believed by industry insiders that Pokerstars has been throwing money at the PPA for many years in the hope that they could repair their reputation following the Black Friday scandal. The plan was that poker would return to most states quickly and Pokerstars would manoeuvre themselves into position to reclaim their spot as market leader. When it became clear that California wasn’t going to be joining the fray anytime soon, it looks as if they pulled the plug.

Now the PPA is saying that they are going to move some of their focus onto the sports betting issue.

“The PPA has been adjusting to a significant reduction in financial support from the internet gaming industry and thusly has refocused its efforts on cost effective grassroots advocacy.”

Before Christmas 2017, 92% of PPA members responded to a survey indicating that they would approve of sports betting legalisation if it included real money online poker.

Right now, there is a US Supreme Court case going on in regards to legalising sports betting on a federal level. If this is passed, then it could make a huge difference moving forward. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is challenging the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) which prohibits individual states from legalising sports betting, except Nevada. Any activities that were already in place a year before the act was signed were grandfathered in. Hence the situation where Nevada casinos can offer a full range of sports betting to their customers.

As much as $400 billion is estimated to be bet illegally each year in the United States. The state of Nevada currently deals with around $5 billion.


We Will Always Fight

No matter if the PPA does decide that the fight is over in 2018, there will always be somebody willing to fight on.

Rich Muny comes across as a guy who isn’t going to see this get wrapped up in 2018. There may be a lull in spending until momentum is built up once more, but the fight is far from over. Muny gave a statement upon his promotion that gives us confidence our voice will always be heard.

“I am honored that the PPA Board of Directors and the poker community have entrusted me with this role, and I join my fellow board members in thanking John Pappas for his decade of outstanding leadership in the fight for poker. I look forward to leading the poker community in this fight, building on the terrific successes of 2017.”