There has been a lot in the news recently about the state of online poker and whether or not the “new administration” will have a friendlier view of Internet gambling and online poker in particular. There has also been a lot of focus on Barney Frank, the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee. It is Frank who has been one of the most vocal in speaking out against the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and has been a leader in attempting to get it repealed or changed.
Well, after much anticipation, a spokesperson for Barney Frank has announced, through Reuters news service, that “The bill introduction should happen in the next month. Mr. Frank will bring back legislation to repeal the UIGEA.”
One of his arguments against the act has always been that the government should not be telling American citizens when and how to spend their own personal money. However, although that argument still holds true, Frank has been given additional ammunition in his fight to repeal the law. Reuters has also recently reported that the European Commission, which investigated the U.S. clampdown of online gambling companies, especially those from Europe, will recommend that action be taken at the World Trade Organization. It is their belief that the United States acted unfairly in forcing European companies out of the U.S. market while still allowing some American companies to operate without disturbance.
Therefore, Frank can argue that not only is the UIGEA a violation of American’s civil rights, but it has also hurt trade relations with many European nations and damaged several of their large, publicly traded, very legal companies. In addition to these European nations, the United States has faced heat from other countries in which online gaming is legal. For instance, Antigua has previously filed suits against the U.S. with the WTO, saying that this act was in direct violation of a treaty called the General Agreement on Trade in Services. That treaty specifically stated that these types of services (gaming) were to be made with 0 trade costs. However, instead of complying, the United States removed online gambling from all of its international trade treaties.
The Poker Players Alliance has, of course, also been a huge proponent of overturning the UIGEA. Much of the argument they present also revolves around the players’ rights. They argue that the government should legalize online poker, not only because citizens should have the right to play, but because that would offer the most protection for American players. They point to recent controversies at sites such as Absolute and Ultimate Bet, arguing that there isn’t enough oversight of these companies and that the U.S. government could protect “consumers,” users of the software, while at the same time benefiting from the taxes and associated fees that could be collected. These taxes and fees could potentially pump billions of dollars into an economy that obviously could benefit from an influx of revenue from an untapped source.
However, Frank has attempted to introduce similar legislation before, which never reached the point of a vote. So while Frank’s supporters are optimistic, they also know that it will be a long road, and this is just the beginning. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction.