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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

UIGEA Clarification Bill Passes Committee

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Tuesday, September 16th, was a good day for poker. Whether most in the poker community realize the ramifications of the passage of H.R. 6870 or not, it is a step in the right direction for the future of online poker and the poker industry as a whole. The piece of legislation passed the House Financial Services Committee, thanks to sponsor Rep. Barney Frank and the work of the Poker Players Alliance.

H.R. 6870 is also known as the Payment System Protection Act of 2008, and it was introduced by Rep. Frank (D-MA) on September 12th to the committee he chairs, the House Committee on Financial Services. The legislation was drafted in response to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 that Frank not only felt was wrong at its very core, but imposed undue burdens on the financial institutions that are supposed to enforce the law. After conducting a hearing in which many of those institutions, such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve System, expressed their concerns over definitions of online gambling and the ambiguous nature of the law’s demand for enforcement, Frank pushed several pieces of legislation that would clarify the UIGEA.

Ultimately, the Payment System Protection Act of 2008 would create a process whereby online gambling would be broken down to determine which exact types of gambling are unlawful under the UIGEA. Poker would receive scrutiny during this process, at which time legislators could make the case that it should be exempt from the UIGEA as a game of skill - not gambling. H.R. 6870 would also require the appointment of a special Administrative Law Judge to conduct a study about the economic impact of UIGEA compliance.

When H.R. 6870 was put before the Financial Services Committee this week, the bill passed by a vote of 30-19. Not only does the accomplishment mean that members of Congress are finally starting to see the complications and general problems with the UIGEA, but it sets the bill up for a vote in the House of Representatives. With its passage through Congress, if that happens, poker has a chance to make its case as a game of skill.

The passage of Frank’s legislation is due to Frank’s tireless advocacy on the issue of personal freedoms and the ambiguity of the UIGEA, along with the tireless efforts of the Poker Players Alliance. The PPA’s lobbying efforts within the halls of Congress have persuaded numerous representatives to examine the issue more closely.

PPA Chairman and Former Senator Alfonse D’Amato released a statement regarding the passage of the bill. “The PPA is pleased that the House Financial Services Committee today recognized the need to provide necessary clarification to what constitutes the ‘unlawful internet gambling’ under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) by passing H.R. 6870. This bipartisan compromise bill will rightfully advance the UIGEA to become immediately effective for such internet gambling that is clearly unlawful, namely sports betting. The legislation also appropriately requires a formal rulemaking, overseen by an administrative law judge, to provide the clarification requested by the Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve, among others, as to the definition of ‘unlawful internet gambling.’”

D’Amato continued, “Even those who oppose internet gambling should applaud the passage of this legislation as it provides the most realistic opportunity to block truly unlawful internet gambling transactions. The PPS congratulates the Republicans and Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee on reaching this strong compromise bill, and we look forward to enactment of this sound public policy during this legislative session. We thank Chairman Frank for his continued leadership on this important issue of protecting individual rights and personal responsibility.”

Visit the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative at www.SafeAndSecureIG.org or the Poker Players Alliance at www.PokerPlayersAlliance.org for more information on the legislation and efforts to support it. Both sites enable visitors to easily send a message to members of Congress, which is highly encouraged as the rights to play online poker ARE at stake.

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