For the last three years, every online poker player in the world has been hoping and praying for an end to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Since being surreptitiously snuck through Congress in late 2006, it has been the bane of the industry. This week, for the first time, it seems like the end of the UIGEA might actually be within reach. The U.S. Treasury Secretary consented to requests from a number of sources and delayed the implementation of the anti-gambling laws by 6 months.
The “refined” UIGEA legislation was hammered out earlier this year and passed into law just one day before President Obama took office. They were scheduled to begin in December, but have now been pushed back until June 1st. The industry had hoped that combined efforts of the PPA, Rep. Barney Frank, and others would be able to topple the UIEGA before December 1st. However a combination of factors, not least the economic recession, has meant constant delays.
In delaying the UIGEA, Secretary Timothy Geithner was responding to letters sent by the Poker Players Alliance and Barney Frank. There were also supporting correspondences from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Greyhound Track Operators Association. On the other side of the divide, gambling opponents Spencer Bachus and Jon Kyl authored a letter calling for the December 1st implementation to go ahead. Frank’s letter appears to have been particularly persuasive, co-signed as it was by 18 members of Congress. As head of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank holds some serious weight on economic issues. His letter included comments such as; “[The UIGEA] is an unreasonable burden on regulators and the financial services industry at a time of economic crisis, and it contradicts the stated intent of the Financial Services Committee.”
The PPA has yet to respond to the delay, claiming that they wish to wait for an official announcement – due sometime later today. News of the decision has come largely from iMEGA chairman Joe Brennan, who claims to have heard directly from one of the key players. “It’s very unusual for any department of the government to essentially forestall an act of Congress. This is a testament to the power of Congressmen Frank,” he said.
The delay has been all but confirmed by the news that Barney Frank has scheduled a hearing for his anti-UIGEA bills on December 3rd. Both HR 2266 and HR 2267 will have a hearing in the House Financial Services Committee. Frank’s previous effort managed to negotiate its way through a similar hearing and on to Congress, so hopes will be high for his newly refined efforts.
HR 2266 is the ‘Reasonable Prudence in Regulation Act’, which seeks to delay the UIGEA implementation by 12 months. Far more important is the second bill, otherwise known as the ‘Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act’. In short, it introduces regulations and a licensing framework for the future of online poker, resulting in the kind of governable, taxable, and legal industry that the majority of companies and consumers favor. The former bill has picked up 53 co-sponsors, while the latter has amassed 63.
The PPA has been instrumental in helping to ease Frank’s bills through the legislative process, but even executive director John Pappas was shocked to see a hearing scheduled so soon. “We thought it would probably have to wait until January, so we’re pleasantly surprised to see this happen in December. I think Barney is sending a strong message to regulators and others that he’s serious about changing this law. He’s going to move forward with his plans to license and regulate this industry.” The hearing is set to take place on December 3rd at 10:00 am.