Following news last week that the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve had finalized regulations that would allow the implementation of the UIGEA, pro-gambling campaigners and politicians have struck back on two fronts. The Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) have submitted the final brief in their long running court case against the U.S. government. Democrats in Congress are also looking at the possibility of dusting off a largely unknown piece of legislation in order to block president Bush from writing the new UIGEA regulations into law before he leaves office.
The legislation in question is known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Introduced during the Clinton-era, it contains measures that should scupper any plans President Bush may have had to push through controversial laws before he leaves office. As things stand, Bush will sign the new UIGEA regulations into law on January 19th, just a day before President-elect Barack Obama takes office.
The CRA contains a clause which states that any regulations finalized within 60 legislative days of Congress returning from adjournment (as they have just done, following the election) could not be made into law until the 15th day of the new Congress. This rule will effectively make it illegal for Bush to sign in the new UIGEA regulations before he leaves office, leaving it up to Barack Obama and the new Senate to make the final decision.
In addition, any new laws introduced in this way will have a 60 day review period put in place after they are enacted. During this period, all that is required for the laws to be overturned is a vote from both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Given that both these bodies will be Democrat controlled come the new government, the overturning of the UIGEA regulations would seem likely. Senior Democrats, however, have gone on record as saying that they have not made any final decisions on which course to take.
Another battlefield on which the pro-poker war is being waged is the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. IMEGA, a trade body representing a number of gambling companies, brought a suit against the U.S. government in an attempt to have the UIGEA rules deemed unconstitutional. Although they fell at the first hurdle, the case was brought to the appeal court and arguments have been thrown back and forth in a series of briefs. The last of these was submitted this week by iMEGA, in response to the claims made by the government two weeks ago.
The central pillar of iMEGA’s proposal is that the “UIGEA should be ‘void for vagueness’, in that Congress has not defined what an ‘unlawful Internet gambling transaction’ is, as they are required,” – Joe Brennan, iMEGA Chairman and CEO. The government had tried to derail this argument by claiming that, as iMEGA did not raise the issue in their initial case, they are forbidden from doing so in a higher court. IMEGA have effectively rebuffed this claim by pointing out that they did, in fact, raise the matter in their initial suit, and that a judge even ruled on the issue, making it fair ground in the appeal court.
The government also outlined their belief that the UIGEA was not at all vague, and that any such claims should be dismissed. IMEGA’s response to this has been to pinpoint a variety of instances throughout the bill where language is unclear and open to multiple interpretations. Another of the government’s claims was also challenged, namely that iMEGA lacked the legal standing to bring the case to court in the first place. The trade group responded by pointing out that a number of their members could face prosecution if that law was passed and that this should grant them legal standing.
A three-judge panel will now examine all the briefs submitted thus far and decide when, and if, oral arguments are to be heard – after which a sentence will be reached. Mr. Brennan seemed optimistic that things were swinging in iMEGA’s favor, saying: “After reviewing the final regulations, we’re extremely confident the court will look at this law and agree that UIGEA should be ‘void for vagueness’.”