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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Rep. Frank Says No More Delays for June 1 UIGEA Deadline

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Hopes of seeing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 repealed in any form by the deadline of June 1, 2010, are fading quickly as less than three months remain before the UIGEA regulations go into full effect. And three months with regards to the United States Congress is likely too short of a time period to enact a law to counter the online gaming-stifling UIGEA.

The most hope for positive online gaming regulation came in the form of the May 2009 bill introduced by Rep. Barney Frank. The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act looked to legalize and regulate online gaming, and a companion bill from Rep. Jim McDermott sought to tax those activities. But that bill moved slowly, so much so that Frank and others had to request an extension for the UIGEA regulations, and a six-month stay was granted by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (). Finally, Frank’s bill was granted a committee hearing on December 3, 2009, but little to no action followed that debate.

New information has come to light, courtesy of Frank himself, which leads to a belief that nothing will prevent the UIGEA from going into effect on June 1, 2010. The opinion comes from a situation that involved Geithner and President Barack Obama’s nominees for Treasury department positions, and the blocking of a vote on those nominees by gaming opposition leader Sen. Jon Kyl. Frank told a PokerNews interviewer, “Geithner promised he won’t delay the [UIGEA] bill again because Kyl was holding up all the nominees.” Therefore, the June 1st deadline remains set in proverbial stone, and Kyl has lifted his concerns about the nominees.

Frank went further in his PokerNews interview, saying that he doubts anything will stop the UIGEA, including his own proposed legislation. “It’s fine with me,” he stated. “I think it’s frankly so dumb and oppressive that it will create support to repeal the bill. I think, once it goes into effect, banks are going to raise hell and all the bankers will go to the Senate to complain.”

PPA Executive Director John Pappas has a more positive outlook, though. In a recent interview with CardPlayer, he noted that a mark-up for Frank’s bill is scheduled for the spring, a process by which the bill will be read aloud and committee members can make their case for changes. Pappas talked about conversations with Frank on the issue, saying, “We’ve been in a number of discussions, and I think Mr. Frank has a few more issues that he’s working out himself, and we hope he will stick to his deal to mark this bill up sometime in the spring.”

While the bill introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez remains largely unremarkable in the scheme of things, it seems that organizations like the PPA are still working to advance that as well. The Internet Poker and Games of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act has a harder road to travel, but Pappas suggests that work is still being done to push it forward.

And Pappas also commented on the June 1st deadline for the UIGEA, noting that “the PPA intends to final another petition. We are going to put the same energy that we did with the last petition.”

Meanwhile, the newest bill that has promise of overturning UIGEA regulations is the bipartisan bill introduced to the Senate in February. The Bipartisan Tax Fairness and Simplification Act of 2010 was co-written by Senators Ron Wyden (Democrat) and Judd Gregg (Republican) and focuses mainly on tax system reforms. But among the many proposals in the bill, regulating internet gambling looks to garner revenue for the federal government while simplifying the process of financial institutions that will have a difficult time enforcing the UIGEA. This bill, in fact, has the highest likelihood of passage in the coming months of the online gaming bills pending.

But as the recent health care debate has demonstrated, the process by which a bill becomes a law can be quite the complicated one. The future of online gaming in the United States hinges on a positive outcome from all of the discussions and deals that will take place in the coming months.

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