The outgoing U.S. government is once again to employ sneak tactics to ram home enforcement of the UIGEA. Ever since the bill that effectively outlawed online gambling was attached to a must-pass Port Security bill, it has come under fire from poker players, senators and financial experts. Yet it has been revealed that the Bush administration is seeking to rush through measures that would allow for the full enforcement of the UIGEA, despite promising not to take any such action except in ‘extraordinary circumstances.’ Pushing the bill through before Barack Obama’s incoming administration has a chance to properly asses the issue could see the end of online poker for the U.S. in the near future.
The UIGEA is designed to block online gambling by banning financial institutions from allowing payments between U.S. residents and online gambling companies. One of the main groups who supported its original development was the NFL, as well as other major American sports leagues concerned about the issue of match fixing. It seems they are also at the forefront of this latest move. William Wichterman is the man spearheading the new UIGEA regulations, as part of his new job with the Bush government. As recently as March, however, he was an NFL lobbyist.
All this has occurred despite the bill receiving widespread condemnation at a congressional hearing in April. Members of the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department, who will be responsible for the enforcement of the bill, criticized its vague language and ineffective strategy. The Vice President of the American Bankers Association also questioned its effectiveness, as well as the added strain it would place on the struggling banking system.
Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who has introduced a number of bills designed to clarify the UIGEA, wrote to the Department of the Treasury urging them to delay any regulatory decision:
“I am deeply disappointed to hear that your agency is proceeding with what I consider to be unseemly haste in issuing regulations implementing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. This midnight rulemaking will tie the hands of the new Administration, burden the financial services industry at a time of economic crisis, and contradict the stated intent of the Financial Services Committee.
“I strongly urge you to delay implementation of these major, and deeply flawed regulations to permit the incoming Administration the ability to review the consequences of such a significant policy decision, rather than unfairly being denied that opportunity.”
The Poker Players Alliance have also voiced their extreme disappointment, and have urged poker players from across the country (and the world) to make their feelings known to the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Information on how to contact the Fed and the Treasury by phone or email are available on the PPA website. The site even offers a list of suggested topics which they feel should be raised with these agencies. It is important for the future of poker that you make your voice heard. I have and you should, too.