The Washington-based pressure group for the legalization of online poker in the USA, the Poker Players Alliance, could soon be celebrating its one millionth member, according to an interview with executive director John Pappas conducted this week by the Pocket Fives information portal.

Since 2006 the PPA’s membership has exploded to over 930 000, Pappas disclosed, saying that he preferred to grow the orgnanisation, which spent over $900 000 in US lobbying last year, organically rather than through freeroll tournaments. In just a few short weeks in February this year, the PPA membership soared from 870 000 to 930 000, or nearly 7 percent.

Pappas explained, "We had a couple of the leading sites running promotions for us, which really helped gather new members. They hosted freerolls and then there’s generally a lag time when we update our official totals. I know we’ll be adding more members in the coming weeks. I’m confident we’ll get to one million members by early spring."

Anticipating the landmark millionth registration, the PPA has started developing promotions. Developing critical mass is important, and the achievement of a million members will accelerate that, Pappas says, "Right now, I want to have an incentive for the 1 000 000th member. I think that once we make an announcement, we’ll have an increase in membership. We have discussed everything from giving that lucky person a seat in the WSOP to having them come to Washington."

Pappas is confident of further growth beyond the one million target he currently has in his sights. "Arguably, the market is 10 times as big as one million people. We’ll need to step up our efforts to get the word out to new people."

And a million citizens is enough to make any politician sit up and take notice: "We’ll do everything we can to make sure members of Congress know there’s an organization that’s a million strong. It’s important to let them know we have one million active members, though, which means our membership needs to get registered to vote and Bodog Life Pokercontinue to contact Congressmen on the issue of online poker."

On the political front, the PPA is also watching the current searing debate over the intention of the Massachusetts state administration to allow three $1 billion casinos to set up. The reason? Tucked away in the proposed legalization is a Washington state-like move to ban online gambling.

Randy Castonguay, the PPA's man in Massachusetts, gave a heads up to members recently when he sent an email saying: "Recently, Governor Deval Patrick proposed a bill (H.4307) that seeks to expand casino gambling in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This bill also includes a proposition that would make it a crime for you to play poker on the Internet (See: Section 15(h)(2)(i)). Under this provision, violators will be subject to a maximum term of 2 years in the house of correction, a fine of $25 000, or both. Ironically, H.4307 is pro-casino gambling legalization, yet it makes Internet gaming a crime."

Pappas referred to the bill in a meeting with the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society in Boston in February, describing the governor's proposals as a critical point for Massachusetts voters.

"The PPA is serious about making sure the provision in the legalization that seeks to criminalize online gaming is removed or clarified not to include skill games like poker," Pappas told the meeting, adding that the PPA felt so strongly about it that it had allocated lobbying budget and employed a well-respected lobbyist.

Why Governor Patrick would seek to flirt with tribal casino applicants and promote land casino activity in the state on a grand scale, yet ban Internet gambling is open to conjecture. Pappas said he had been unable to get a straight answer.

"The idea for the [Massachusetts] gaming bill is to raise as much revenue as possible through casinos, so it’s conceivable that Governor Patrick could have viewed online gaming as a threat to revenue that could be raised through land-based casinos. It’s a real concern and we’re hopeful we can act quickly. The bill has already been introduced and referred to committee. There will probably be a hearing sometime in March."