Monday, April 02, 2007

The Rambling Gambling Man

The Alphonse of SpadesA couple of posts back I was discussing different podcasts and expressed mild surprise that the Pocket Fives podcast seemed so rarely to cover UIGEA-related issues. Even though the podcast purports to bring us “the latest news and events from online poker,” the show rarely touches on the many concerns of genuine interest to online players resulting from the Act being signed into law last October.

There have been a couple of exceptions. Last May, half of the show consisted of an interview with Congressman Barney Frank regarding the status of what would eventually become the UIGEA. And a few days after the senate rammed it through, P5s did devote their 10/5/06 show to the issue by interviewing Poker Players Alliance President Michael Bolcerek, National Right for Online Gaming Executive Director Brian Jakusik, and I. Nelson Rose. Other than those shows, though, there’s been nothing. When Neteller pulled out of the U.S. market in January, the event didn’t even rate a mention on the show. Instead, hosts Adam Small and David Huber have mainly been concerned with interviewing successful online tourney players (and a few pros like Joe Sebok and Barry Greenstein). Don’t get me wrong -- I find these interviews are very often interesting and even informative, and I also think Small and Huber do a great job asking questions that are of interest to their target audience. I’m just observing that when it comes to delivering “the latest news and events from online poker,” the P5s guys have had a blind spot here of late.

Last week’s show was another exception as former senator and newly-anointed PPA Chairman of the Board Alphonse D’Amato appeared as a guest. I had read the interview with D’Amato in CardPlayer a couple of weeks back. Quite the “puff” piece (as Haley has pointed out), although amid all of the fawning one does get a decent idea of where D’Amato is coming from and where his intentions lie as far as arguing the case for a poker carve-out is concerned. (If you’re interested, here’s that interview.) I do like how more than once D’Amato tends to gravitate toward the need to regulate the industry and demonstrate to those who matter (i.e., Congress) how much money can be made from taxation. He makes a couple of other points about the unfairness of the law (e.g., when compared to betting on horse racing or lotteries; its effect on home-bound, handicapped players). These are fine arguments, but aren’t going to have nearly the influence as will clear demonstrations of how much money can be made from regulating online poker.

On the Pocket Fives podcast last week, David Huber’s opened the interview by asking D’Amato to identify “some of the factors that led to your decision to become Chairman of the Board of the PPA.” D’Amato responded with a six-minute long stump speech (of sorts) which touched on all the same talking points one finds in the CardPlayer interview. After a couple of minutes, I had completely lost track of what the question had been (indeed, D’Amato never does answer it). I thought I could follow the first part of his answer: “Well, I think as individuals we like to make our own choices and one of the great things about being a U.S. citizen and living in this great democracy is that we have a right to make our own choices and particularly in our own homes. It’s one of the things that our forefathers fought about . . . fought about the government intruding. [They] said you can’t come into and break into a person’s house, like the king’s soldiers would do, without a warrant. Imagine going back to those times. They would probably ban people from playing chess. That’s what it’s analogous to. So now we have the internet . . . .”

Good enough. Sounded like he started out as though inspired by that word “decision” -- he had been asked about his own decision to serve as the PPA Chairman of the Board -- but rather than answer that question he instead spoke generically about Americans’ right to choose. The chess analogy I didn’t quite get, but it was apparent the man was on a roll . . . .

Soon, though, I realized D’Amato was moving from point to point without bothering to telegraph any of his transitions. Phrases randomly emerged from the murkiness, seemingly intended to move the audience to some sort of action: “If you want to pick horses . . . fantasy sports . . . moral judgments . . . back to Prohibition days . . . having them declared outlaws . . . no protection, no supervision . . . regulate, supervise, have the industry pay for itself . . . substantial revenues . . . the sport that they love . . . wild goose chases . . . they should be going after the terrorists and the terrorist network . . . major corporations . . . driving it underground . . . well-intentioned, but missing an opportunity . . . underaged players . . . the house doesn’t make money with a problem gambler . . . .” And so forth.

As I listened, all the noise soon coalesced into a single thought dominating my consciousness: “I cannot wait for this man to stop talking.” (Here . . . go listen for yourself and tell me if you don’t also experience that worrisome pain between the eyes as did I.)

I do realize D’Amato is here addressing an audience comprised almost entirely of people who already agree with his position regarding the UIGEA. But I wonder how, exactly, this sort of noisy barrage about civil liberties and morality and Prohibition would play to a less sympathetic audience. I simply cannot imagine those who oppose any change in the UIGEA could possibly be influenced by this sort of “throw everything we can think of against the wall and hope something sticks”-approach to persuasion.

Perhaps that’s what a lobbyist does, though. Gets ideas circulating, people talking . . . generates that “buzz” in a non-specific way that ultimately proves helpful to the real movers and shakers. Sort of like how Malcolm Gladwell describes salesmen in The Tipping Point -- those folks who successfully use their charisma (and not necessarily appeals to logic) to encourage others to follow their lead.

I hope so, anyway. Otherwise we might all have to start playing chess.



Anonymous richard said...

Agreed, D'Amato sounds too gung-ho and preachy to me, which is something I dislike and does not move me one bit. In short I don't have much confidence in him to make things happen. But I guess we'll see. He's the politican, not me.

4/03/2007 3:23 PM  

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