US Presidential Candidate Supports Online Poker Players

online poker USAThe World Series of Poker (WSOP) might be reaching a climax in Las Vegas with the vast majority of gold bracelets already handed out, but every poker player – be they amateur or pro – will be facing an even tougher fight when it comes to their rights to play online poker.

The events of ‘Black Friday’ back on April 15, when three major poker websites – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker – were shut down by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has made it almost impossible for American players to play online.

Of course, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 meant poker players were considered individuals – making it much harder to influence elections and politics in general.

However, an unlikely supporter for their cause has emerged in Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who has officially targeted the poker-player vote by creating a website page that states: “Support me for President, and I’ll support your freedom.”

The former New Mexico Governor also pointed out on the page that “the federal government should not be involved in restricting lawful commerce that doesn’t harm anyone”.

The 58-year-old – who is a candidate for the Republican nomination for US President in the 2012 election – suggests that poker players should “participate in your freedom” by giving $100, $50 or $25 donations to his campaign.

It is certainly a major boost to poker players that any presidential candidate would publicly back their stance – even if Johnson is unlikely to win enough support to gain the Republican nomination because of his controversial stance on a number of subjects.

In fact, Johnson is something of a rebel with his support of the legalisation of prostitution and marijuana. He’s also at odds with many Republicans on other crucial subjects, with his well-documented support of abortion rights and the fact he does not attend church keeping him down at ninth place among Republican candidates in a recent poll conducted by Gallup.

However, Johnson has beaten the odds several times before by becoming New Mexico’s governor from 1995 to 2003 in what is considered a very pro-Democrat state. He initially defeated incumbent governor Bruce King by 50% to 40% and was then re-elected with 55% of the vote against Democrat Martin Chávez’ 45% for a second term.

So maybe Johnson can make a difference over the next seven months before the initial primaries take place. Poker players may well be attracted to his campaign and funding will most certainly make a huge difference to his chances.

Even if Johnson cannot secure the presidential candidacy, maybe the tide is turning in poker’s favour as Washington DC politicians begin to actively campaign for players’ support, although that won’t be enough to break down the current status quo that threatens the livelihoods of so many.

It was disappointing to many poker players back in 2008 that, although Barack Obama was reported to be a keen poker player, the US president never broached the subject in public – probably because poker players were not considered to possess any great influence on what is a controversial subject to many in the United States.

However, John Pappas – the executive director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) – reckons Johnson genuinely “cares about this issue”, particularly following their lunch in Washington DC last month.

Pappas also pointed out that Johnson “also realises there’s a serious voting block of people out there and believes that their ideologies, not just on poker but other issues, probably align with his”.

He may well be right – and Pappas certainly looks likely to give the presidential candidate his support because “what he believes is very much aligned with my personal beliefs”.

The PPA executive director continued by stating that Johnson is “a down-to-earth guy – he’s real”, before emphasising that the politician “talks the talk and walks the walk”.

However, Pappas is, like many political commentators, not convinced he can take his presidential candidacy to the next level when saying that he doubts “whether his campaign has the ability to make a run at the nomination”.

But Johnson will probably be a popular figure in Vegas today when he arrives for the WSOP party in the Wynn hotel’s poker room, while Pappas – who will also attend the party – can be seen at the PPA’s booth in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino as the main event kicks off.