The pressure that had been mounting throughout 2008 against the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, in both the legal and political spheres, appears to have picked up pace as we approach the dawn of a new U.S. administration. Rumblings from inside the President-elect’s team, as well as Democratic representatives in the Senate, seem to be increasing the odds that 2009 will see an end to the UIGEA.
Perhaps most importantly of all, however, it seems that the general public have thrown their weight behind the bid. Obama’s new website, www.change.gov, has unveiled a feature dubbed the “Citizen’s Briefing Book” – the idea of which is to allow average citizens a direct conduit to the soon-to-be leader of the United States. Users are encouraged to register and post up ideas that they would like to see the new government addressing, with people also able to “Vote Up” and “Vote Down” issues that they do or do not like. What makes this intriguing initiative so key for poker is that, among the 25,000 issues raised so far, repealing the UIGEA ranks in 9th place.
The point was first raised by user ‘AAHue,’ who called on Barack Obama to “Let online poker players in the United States play legally and without fear of prosecution.” Although his rallying cry had at one point propelled the cause into second place on the site, contributions have quadrupled since that point while poker still remains in the top 10. Common themes among the 1000 strong comment section include the restriction of the freedoms of individual citizens, comparisons with stock market wagers and the potential economy-boosting tax and employment opportunities scrapping the UIGEA would present. To put in a vote yourself, simply click here and register on the site.
Even before the popularity of the Citizen’s Briefing Book, it was looking as if the UIGEA’s days might be numbered. Regulations designed to facilitate the implementation of the controversial bill are among some of the late-term rules being forced through in the last few months of the Bush administration. With Democratic representatives already pledging thorough reviews of any decisions taken in the brief period before they take office, one Senator is looking to make the process considerably easier. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) last week reintroduced his “Midnight Rule Act” to Congress which, if passed, would mean that all decisions passed by a government in the last 3 months of a government would have be approved by incoming Cabinet Secretaries before coming into effect. “As expected, the Bush Administration has, in its final moments, proposed a series of retrograde and dangerous regulatory changes,” said the Senator, “we cannot sit idly by as this Administration quietly makes last-ditch efforts to erode civil liberties.” Although passing of the bill would make repealing the UIGEA considerably easier, it will need make a speedy transition through the Senate if it is to come into effect in time for it to be of any use.
If all that were not enough, the long running “iMEGA vs. the U.S. Department of Justice” case looks to be heading for court once again. The U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has asked both parties to convene in April in order to hear oral arguments. iMEGA contend that the UIGEA should be discarded due to it being “void for vagueness,” and therefore unconstitutional. The group’s chairman, Joe Brennan Jr., was positive upon hearing the news: “We’re confident we have a strong suit, and it will be difficult for the Department of Justice to defend UIGEA, because it is so fatally flawed.”
Although the issue may well be decided by the government before it makes its way to court, poker players can have hope in the knowledge that even if the Obama administration decide not dismiss the UIGEA, industry groups have a fighting chance of defeating it themselves.