As another e-wallet service pulls the plug on U.S. poker players, two Congressmen introduce a bill to prevent the UIGEA implementation.
The bill to ban online gambling, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), rocked the poker world when it was introduced in late 2006. Although many online poker players felt the bill would not be able to impose a total ban on Internet gambling, it did do damage to the industry. The year before the ban was implemented, approximately 2,500 Internet gambling sites made about $15 billion dollars from online casinos, online betting, and online poker. But, after President Bush signed the UIGEA into place, the business dropped about 50%. Can anything stop the UIGEA?
Congressman Barney Frank, a democrat from Massachusetts and Ron Paul, a republican from Texas, certainly hope so. They introduced a bill on April 10th that would stop the government from putting into place the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). H.R. 5767 specifically says that the Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System would be forbidden from “proposing, prescribing, or implementing any regulation that requires the financial services industry to identify and block internet gambling transactions.”
Frank and Paul say that their push behind the bill is the idea that the federal government should not be able to legislate morality. They also think that the government does not have the ability to identify and stop all the transactions between what the UIGEA refers to as “illegal Internet gambling” companies and U.S. players. One problem for the government is that many of these companies are on foreign soil.
During a hearing on the proposed rules of the UIGEA on April 2, Paul submitted a written statement that said in part:
“The ban on Internet gambling infringes upon two freedoms that are important to many Americans: the ability to do with their money as they see fit, and the freedom from government interference with the Internet. The regulations and underlying bill also force financial institutions to act as law enforcement officers. This is another pernicious trend that has accelerated in the aftermath of the Patriot Act, the deputization of private businesses to perform intrusive enforcement and surveillance functions that the federal government is unwilling to perform on its own.”
Rather than ban internet gambling completely, Frank and Paul suggest in their bill that it be licensed and taxed. But, the online poker buzz is that even if this bill is passed, it will take a while for things to change.
So far, many poker players are getting around the ban through various methods. However, one of the methods just ceased yesterday. ePassporte, which allows customers to deposit money into online poker sites, has announced that it will no longer serve U.S. customers. In a statement released to online poker sites such as Full Tilt and PokerStars, ePassporte said:
“We have been advised that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is conducting a widespread investigation of internet gambling, including poker. All though we do not believe we have done anything illegal, we do not wish to be associated with anything that might be considered illegal by the United States government. Therefore, we are terminating the ePpurchase provisions of your agreement immediately and have suspended your account pending further review.”
ePassporte had replaced Neteller as a method to deposit money for playing online poker. Along with Neteller and ePassporte, EcoCard, Citadel, and FirePay have all left the internet gambling arena since the UIGEA was passed.
Despite the ban, by some estimates, there are approximately 1000,000 people gambling online at any given moment. Until the ban is fully implemented or someone comes up with a compromise the government will accept, the Internet poker world will try to come up with ways to continue to serve its poker players.
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