The cash-beleaguered Poker Players Alliance (PPA) lobbying group finds a new corporate backer in poker-content company Poker Central and will transition into a new lobbying entity called the Poker Alliance. The redesigned group will continue to ask for grassroots support from players but will no longer seek public donations.
The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a grassroots-themed lobbying group representing poker interests in the United States, has announced that it will be taken over by poker-content producer Poker Central, effective immediately, and will transition into a new lobbying effort called the Poker Alliance.
The move rescues the PPA from the financial oblivion the lobbying organization faced after the last of its former corporate backers, PokerStars, dropped its support for the group at the end of 2017. That left the PPA, in the words of its current Executive Director, Rich Muny, “running on fumes”. A call by Muny earlier this year to its nominal 1.2 million poker-playing members to collectively contribute $25,000 to the PPA’s operating fund fell far short of its goal, netting only a little over $6,000 and forcing the group to the sidelines until it could find alternative funding.
Poker Central is owned by several prominent professional poker players and poker-playing businessmen. Though the privately-held company has never disclosed ownership shares, the primary owner is asserted to be Cary Katz, the owner of College Loan Corp. Other well-known pros, including Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, and Antonio Esfandiari, are also part of the company’s ownership team.
Poker Central also owns the PokerGO online streaming service in addition to its own growing lineup of online-content offerings, which debuted in 2015. The company has made its first strides into creating its own poker events, with the earlier introduction of the Poker Masters.
Removing the ‘player’ emphasis
Rebranding the PPA as the new Poker Alliance, thus omitting the “Players” from the lobbying group’s title, deals with one of the old PPA’s primary problems. The PPA represented itself as backing players’ interests but had always received more than 99% of its funding from corporate concerns, primarily Full Tilt Poker (before 2011) and PokerStars (under both Rational Group and Amaya ownership).
That led to occasional lobbying episodes when the PPA clearly lobbied more on behalf of its corporate benefactors, and less on behalf of the poker-playing community, causing resentment among many players. The PPA gathered the bulk of its million-plus player membership through freeroll events on those sites in the late 2000s.
However, Full Tilt collapsed in the face of the US’s “Black Friday” crackdown on offshore online-poker sites in 2011. PokerStars continued to operate and remained the PPA’s sole benefactor as it sought to re-establish itself in the US market. Those efforts were heavily focused on the legislative attempts to legalize online poker in California, and when those efforts failed, PokerStars abandoned its support for the PPA.
That left the PPA trying to convert non-donating player members to voluntary donators, always a tough task. Though “players” won’t be the focus of the new Poker Alliance, they will still be part of the equation. According to Muny: “One benefit to the structure is we no longer have a financial reliance on membership. We continue to serve members and only ask for their financial support.”
More details forthcoming
The new Poker Alliance will release more details of its plans at its new online home, pokeralliance.com, including an FAQ about the changes. The Poker Alliance will stay focused on poker-related matters for the time being. As to whether the refocused group will entertain lobbying efforts related to other gambling markets such as sports betting, which was part of a possible PPA transition theme explored by Muny earlier this year, remains unknown.
Muny also mentioned that being able to transition the lobbying group and obtain dependable financial support will allow the group to continue lobbying efforts in states such as Michigan, where a legislative push for online gambling legalization, including online poker, will resume this fall.
The Poker Alliance’s new head will be Poker Central’s Mark Brenner. Meanwhile, both current PPA head Muny and former PPA Executive Director John Pappas will stay on in advisory roles for at least the next three months. What will become of the remaining members of the PPA’s old board of directors remains unclear. Some of them have ties all the way back to the PPA’s formation in 2005.