10 Most Influential in Online Gambling (2008)

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Barney Frank

Gambling911.com yesterday looked at 10 of the most influential events involving the online gambling sector yesterday.  Today we look at the 10 most influential people and/or groups impacting online gambling in 2008. 

Two of the usual suspects fail to make an appearance in this year's Top 10 list.  It is easy to understand why Bodog's charismatic founder, Calvin Ayre, would have been featured among the top 10 in any given year between 2003 and 2007.  After all, it was he who appeared on the Forbes Billionaire's issue cover in 2006.  In 2008, Ayre rode off into the sunset, presumably to retire.  The months leading up to his retirement, Ayre failed to make much news (the writing was thereby on the wall).

Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl has enjoyed a much longer tenure on Top 10 year ending lists for the better part of a decade.  It is he who has long been considered the industry's biggest and outspoken nemesis.  But in 2008 Jon Kyl was a little too quiet to make Gambling911.com's Top 10.  Somehow we have a feeling he'll be right back on it in 2009, so let's hold back the tears for now.

Also not quite making the list but deserving of an honorable mention: Scott Lewis of 1st Technology - Claiming a trademark infringement violation, Lewis and his group were single-handedly able to take down the Bodog.com website forcing that beleaguered company to find an alternative web address, which they did.  The problem:  Bodog.com was already poised in all the top search engine positions and they lost all of them.  While the company has been able to come back (including in search), Lewis' action was devastating and they are yet to fully recover.  In 2008, Lewis broadened his efforts to go after a number of other online gambling entities.  But compared to the commonwealth of Kentucky's efforts, Lewis can almost be viewed as Mother Theresa.  Well, not quite. 

10.  Ron Paul - This Republican gained huge support among the Internet gambling sector and for a little while anyway looked like he could make a serious run for the US Presidency.  Afterall, the Texas Congressman managed to beat GOP nominee John McCain in a couple of the early campaigns and raised more money than anyone else outside of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Ron Paul even co-sponsored a piece of legislation looking to overturn the current Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act.  If only Fox News had paid more attention to him and the economy had fallen apart months earlier. 

9.  Ivan Demidov - This Russian born poker player didn't win either the World Series of Poker or its sister event in Europe this past year.  He did, however, manage what many would think is close to impossible.  Demidov made the final table of both tournaments.  He also finished a strong second in the 2008 WSOPE.  If you think the folks aren't embracing poker in Russia the same way those in the US did after Chris Moneymaker's remarkable WSOP win, think again.  And much of this translates into the world of online poker.

8.  The Poker Players Alliance - While former New York Senator Alfonse D'Amato is a strong personality, he wasn't vocal enough to make our Top 10 on his own.  And certainly PPA President John Pappas is like the cat that meows outside your window all night long but when you go to feed it, he darts off into the night.  The PPA as a collective unit has made an impact on our industry that cannot be denied.  To say the leadership here has been outstanding would raise a few eyebrows.  To say they have done an above average job of rousing the troops is more a fair statement.  They cannot afford in 2009 to drop the ball.  Everything they did in 2008 has to be raised at least two notches.  This is going to be a crucial year.   Changes in the leadership structure might be unavoidable unless this animal is put into overdrive. 

7. The Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA.org) - Not much was expected of this fledgling trade organization when it came to the forefront earlier this year.  Much as the industry reacted when Gambling911.com first started touting a little known online gambling company called Bodog.com in 2002, pundits laughed off iMEGA as some type of opportunists.  A few even accused them of being "US government informants" - and still do for that matter.  Unlike the PPA, iMEGA was especially aggressive, which eventually helped these newcomer make a fast impact.  Like John Pappas, iMEGA founder, Joe Brennan, Jr., is like the cat that meows outside your window all night long, only when you go to feed him, he scratches you.  That's the story of iMEGA.  They've been scratching and clawing this past year (a lawsuit against the US Government, filling an Appeals case against the commonwealth of Kentucky).  In 2009, they will need to deliver... at least on one front.  That probability is higher than 50 percent in our opinion - more so in favor of a positive outcome involving Kentucky's online gambling domain seizure matter.  It is also vital that iMEGA remains loyal to those who have supported it early in the game.

6.  Joe Norton- The Former Kahnawake Chief who now oversees Absolute Poker and a few dozen other online gambling enterprises has managed to make quite a name for himself, mostly the result of a much publicized cheating scandal involving Absolute Poker he had nothing to do with.  But it is his name and the Kahnawakes as a whole who arguably have helped to keep Absolute Poker in business.  We've covered dozens of similar stories over the past 10 years Different characters, different plots, but the endings were all the same.  Said company dissolves.  That hasn't happened with Absolute Poker.  Joe and his crew have done well here despite what many perceived to be a "flawed" first audit of the company. 

5.  Barack Obama - Thoughout his long winding campaign in 2008, much of the online gambling industry rooted for the Illinois Senator to become the next President of the United States.  After all, he was touted as "the poker playing President".  His runningmate's son lobbied for PartyGaming.  Whether we see a change in policy remains to be seen but in the i-Gaming sector Obama's message of "hope" perhaps resonates more so than anywhere else.

4.  Anurag Dikshit and Ruth Parasol - The two billionaire co-founders of PartyGaming, Parasol's lobbying efforts for the online gambling industry are often unappreciated.  There are many convinced that without her, the Poker Players Alliance would not exist today.  Of course, Dikshit made news in recent weeks after he entered into a plea agreement with the US Government whereby one of the wealthiest men in the world must forfeit $300 million to US authorities. To put this in perspective, for Dikshit it's like tipping the waiter a little extra in a fancy restaurant.  There is plenty of anger being lodged at him by those in the poker community.

3.  Spencer Bachus - Now assuming the role of arch nemesis to the online gambling sector, this Alabama Republican Congressman came up with one of the better quotes of the year:  "One click of the mouse and you lose your house".  He was referring to Web gambling. Bachus has a mostly, but not totally, conservative voting record.  And it shows in his tireless efforts to obliterate Internet gambling.  Just how dangerous is Bachus to the industry?  Here is another of his more famous quotes:

"All of these (studies) say the younger someone starts gambling, the more likelihood that they become a compulsive gambler. Addicted to gambling, just like addicted to drugs. So there is a correlation between drug dealers and gambling sites."

2.  Barney Frank - Maybe he should be first on our list.  Barney - unlike our top choice - hasn't quite brought the industry to its knees.  He is one of the most powerful people in Congress and thankfully a fierce supporter of one's right to gamble online.

Frank has also partnered with Ron Paul in support of online gambling rights. In 2006, both strongly opposed H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, and H.R. 4411, the Goodlatte-Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. To restore online gambling rights, in 2007 Frank sponsored H.R. 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act.  This bill would have established licensing and regulation of online gaming sites. It provided for age verification and protections for compulsive gamblers. In 2008, he and Paul introduced H.R. 5767, the Payment Systems Protection Act, a bill that sought to place a moratorium on enforcement of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act while the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve defined "unlawful Internet gambling". As a result of these efforts, Frank (who does not gamble) has become a hero to poker players and online gamblers, including many Republicans.


And our Number One Most Influential Person of Online Gambling in 2008.... Drum roll please....


It's Gambling911.com's Jenny Woo!


No.  It's not!  Actually this was an easy one....


1.    Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear - Who else could get about two dozen of the most respected attorneys in Kentucky together in a court room defending the online gambling industry....in Kentucky of all places?  When news broke in September that Beshear was looking to seize some 140 plus Web gambling domain names, there were folks in the European gaming sector who had never even heard of Kentucky.  Why, there were folks in the United States who couldn't find the state on a map!  Then reality hit hard.  A state best known for its bourbon, horse racing and - as we later learned - pizza (home to both Pizza Hut and Papa John's), was about to knock more than 100 websites of the Internet, and that would only be the beginning.  What seemed surreal at first quickly became a reality as a Kentucky Circuit Court judge found in favor of the commonwealth (state).  Had there not been an appeal filed, all of these domain names would today be in the hands of some maniacal religious zealots whose legal counsel compared online poker room operators to child molesters.  Even Spencer Bachus wouldn't stoop that low.  The honorable Judge Thomas Wingate, who ruled in favor of the commonwealth (and got plenty of flack for doing so in the local press) commented: "I've never seen so many lawyers in my courtroom".  This was a wake up call like no other for the industry... with ramifications extending well beyond its borders.  Ask any of those 140 plus domain owners who the most influential person of online gambling is in 2008 and we seriously doubt they'll take a moment to pause in naming Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. 


Christopher Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher 

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