All-around poker-law superhero Barney Frank swooped into the Rio last Sunday to update the World Series of Poker on his attempts to repeal the UIGEA. After addressing the Amazon Room he made his way to a discrete private area where he fielded questions from a select group of media representatives.
He began his Las Vegas adventure by joining WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack on stage to start play on Main Event Day 1c. He uttered the hallowed “Shuffle up and Deal” to get the cards flying and was then shuttled away to the low-key press conference.
The UIGEA is, in his opinion, “a terrible idea” and constitutes an attempt by the Bush government to “reach out and interfere with people’s freedom.” He had scathing comments in general for the previous administration, even suggesting that Republican remnants may have been behind the recent seizure of $40 million worth of online poker funds. His investigations lead him to suggest that Bush appointees in the Department of Justice’s Southern District of New York may have played a key part in the action.
He later fired another shot at the former Republican government, accusing them of gambling hypocrisy. “The law that was passed by the Republicans stops individuals from gambling in the thousands with their own money. At the same time they were allowing institutions to gamble in the billions with other people’s money,” he said.
Much of the discussion centered on Frank’s efforts to repeal the UIGEA. He has railed against the law ever since it was surreptitiously attached to a must-pass Port Security bill in late 2006. Since then a number of bills designed to nullify its effects have failed, but have crept ever closer to success. His latest effort is the H.R. 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act of 2009. This attempts to introduce a regulatory frame work which would require online gambling companies to apply for a license to operate in the US. In addition, they would be regularly vetted to ensure that they are treating their customers fairly.
As the Head of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank has an important role in sheepherding the economy. One of his major issues with the UIGEA is that it places a huge burden on the financial services industry. The bill makes it illegal for banks to process payments to online gambling companies, but leaves it up to them to decide which businesses do or do not qualify.
The worsening economic situation in America has unfortunately caused a delay on H.R. 2267. Although it has been confirmed that the bill will most likely not face a hearing until September, Frank has stated that he is more focused on a piece of companion legislation he introduced to aid proceedings. HR 2266, the Reasonable Prudence in Regulation Act, seeks to delay the implementation of the UIGEA (currently scheduled for Dec. 2009) in order for the law to be properly assessed. “If I could get the whole thing done right away, I would go right to that – a total repeal. But it may be that it’s going to take a little longer, in which case getting the regulations suspended while we work on the broader bill could be useful.”
Barney Frank is a powerful and combative character, and is quite possibly poker’s best hope of returning to legality in the US. He has the support of powerful groups such as the PPA, who arranged Sunday’s WSOP visit. Despite the unscheduled delay in his fight against the UIGEA, Frank announced he expects progress to be made by the end of the year.