Poker Players Lose a Round on Capitol Hill

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, June 1, 2006

The Poker Players Alliance is a young grass-roots organization that lost its first round recently when the House Judiciary Committee approved tougher legislation against Internet gambling, specifically online poker. But the PPA claims it has about 27,000 poker-playing members and says it won't be counted out.

Michael Bolcerek , president of the group, says the alliance generated 15,000 protest letters to the Hill, and he continues to lobby lawmakers against the legislation and for another measure that would create a federal commission to study the impact of Internet gambling.

"I know we'll have a stronger voice in a year. We've been building our membership for only five months," Bolcerek said.

The alliance has had some interesting help in that effort., an online poker site, offered an incentive to its players to join the alliance. Bloggers said the deal was if they paid the $20 membership fee, they would get $25 in their online account -- effectively repaying their fee and giving them a $5 bonus, along with a T-shirt. There was some Web chatter about the deal, with a number of players deciding to join.

"Forgetting whether you get money out of it or not, it's a good thing to do," one player wrote in a poker blog. The player was impressed that he received an e-mail about the legislation and giving the phone number of his congressman.

Bolcerek said and some other Web sites "give bonuses for a lot of reasons" and that the issue of online poker legislation is one of them. He said Card Player magazine has also been promoting membership in the alliance, as have some poker tournaments. "It's nice they feel strongly about what we're doing," he said.

Dutko Worldwide Moves Into Annapolis

Dutko Worldwide has reached into Annapolis, taking in Lee Cowen , Todd D. Lamb and Cathy Andrade , all of Chesapeake Government Relations , which is shuttering its offices as a result of the deal. Cowen started CGR in 2003 with fellow Republican lobbyists-strategists Scott W. Reed and Wayne L. Berman , who are not coming along. Reed remains with his other shop, Chesapeake Enterprises , and Berman is at the Federalist Group .

Cowen, a veteran Hill staffer, was a key adviser to the 2002 campaign of Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and is a member of the Republican Governors Association finance committee. Lamb was a member of Ehrlich's education transition team and earlier was senior adviser to Eugene W. Hickok , then deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. Hickok is now at Dutko, too. Andrade had also worked in the Education Department.

"It was a great opportunity for us to continue doing what we had been doing in Annapolis but with added resources," Cowen said. Praising their experience working with the Ehrlich administration, Dutko President Craig Pattee said in a statement: "We wanted professionals who not only know Maryland, but who also understand what we do in Washington and across the country."

Cowen et al. brought along such clients as; Lyondell Chemical Co.; and AmeriChoice, the managed-care subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group.

Also moving to Dutko: Christina Erland Culver from the Education Department, where she was a deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs.

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