Newly inaugurated President of the United States, Barack Obama, has wasted no time in striking a blow at the pack of “midnight regulations” forced through in the final days of the Bush administration. The new government has invoked powers that force the delay of any new regulations until they could be assessed by incoming staff. A recently released White House statement revealed that, “this afternoon, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel signed a memorandum sent to all agencies and departments to stop all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the Obama administration.”
Prominent among Bush’s “midnight drop” were new rules that clarified the position of the UIGEA, and made it possible, if not easy, for banks to properly enforce the ban on online gambling. The original bill restricted banks from allowing money transfers to and from proprietors of “Illegal online gambling,” but the definitions offered were too vague and the burden upon the financial system too great, so the bill went largely un-enforced. With Republicans on their way out of the Senate, new regulations designed to smooth over the cracks of the UIGEA were drawn up and pushed into law.
This new bill was as widely condemned as the last. The new rules deferred the controversial case of a definition for “Illegal online gambling” to the individual states, many of which have no laws governing the issue. And, although the pressure on the banks were eased, they were still required to bear a considerable burden, enforcing and paying for the law. As a result, a number of groups representing the financial sector strongly condemned its arrival.
Although Obama has now put a stop to many of Bush’s last gasp policies, it is unclear if the UIGEA falls under the scope of the restrictions. The powers brought into effect only restrict pending laws from going into effect, and not those that have already begun their tenure. Although a compulsory period of 60 days is required after a new bill is passed, before it can become fully active, the new UIGEA “clarifications” were timed, with insidious accuracy, to activate just a day before Barack Obama took office.
Whether implementation of UIGEA has been officially delayed or not, its effects are already starting to be felt in the world of online poker. The Vice President of the American Banking Association, Steve Kenneally, has begrudgingly recommended that financial institutions begin the process of blocking transfers to online poker sites. Although the banks have been given until December 1 to comply, and the health of the bill is uncertain, Kenneally believes it is better to play safe and not run the risk of falling foul of the law. Reports are filtering through of difficulties with online deposits, bank transfers to Poker Stars looking to be an early casualty.
The future of the UIGEA should take shape over the coming months, but it seems that poker players may have a further storm to weather before the skies clear.