Controversial UIGEA May Face Repeal
When the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 passed, it was as a thief in the night. It was September 2006, and the Republican party was about to take a beating. The midterm elections in November would be huge victory for the Democratic party. Americans angered by 6 years of failed Bush policy turned out in droves to throw their leaders out of office. The Democratic party would make huge gains, capturing majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate. In September, however, the GOP could undoubtedly sense the coming storm.
On the eve of the recess for the 2006 midterm elections, then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist used a procedural manuever to attach the UIGEA to the unrelated and massively popular SAFE port act. The SAFE port act (short for Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006) was a vital piece of legislation for keeping American ports secure and few elected officials would consider voting against it before the mid-terms. Even more controversial, the UIGEA was added in conference hours before congress recessed. How many senators and representatives even saw the UIGEA in the bill before they voted on it? "According to Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), no one on the Senate-House Conference Committee had even seen the final language of the bill." (source). A thief in the night.
The bill made financial transactions to offshore gambing companies illegal. Financial institutions had to block all unauthorized transactions or face sanctions. Rather than clash with US law enforcement, most poker rooms immediately stopped doing business with US customers.
In the weeks following the UIGEA's passage the massive online poker industry was turned upside down. Companies like 888 and PartyGaming lost billions of dollars in value as their stock prices plummeted. Despite the ban, the online poker industry is still thriving. Some poker rooms such as PokerStars have remained open to US customers, arguing that poker is a skill game and as such is not included in the UIGEA.
The UIGEA was a partying shot, and one that deserves another look. Many legislators agree. Luckily for poker players and supporters of individual rights alike, congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) has been an outspoken critic of the UIGEA. Representative Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told reporters recently at a news conference that he would be pushing legislation to overturn the UIGEA. The news couldn't come any sooner.
Rueters reports that the EU is prepared to file a complaint against the United States over the UIGEA. The claim is that the United States violated trade agreements by restricting European access to the US online gambling market while protecting US gambling interests such as state lotteries and horse racing. Luckily for the US, the EU appears prepared to work out a deal with the new US government before going to the EU with its grievance.
The political climate is ideal for overturning this prohibitionist and failed legislation. As advocates for the individual right to play poker, we encourage you to contact your representatives and tell them that you support repealing the UIGEA.
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