Internet Gambling Rules Get a Stay

The U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve have pushed back the deadline for banking industry compliance with regulations pursuant to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). UIGEA, the controversial tack-on to the Bush administration’s SAFE Port Act aimed at curtailing on-line gambling by making it illegal for U.S banks and financial institutions to participate in funds transactions between U.S. citizens and corporations that operate on-line casinos, effectively banning Internet gambling.

In a joint statement, the Treasury and the Fed delayed the compliance date, which had been set for today (December 1) to June 1, 2010, the Gambling Today blog reports. The decision also comes just days before Thursday’s scheduled hearing in the House Financial Services Committee on H.R. 2267, a bill introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), which would overturn UIGEA and create a full licensing and regulatory framework for the Internet gambling industry in the United States.

As Financial Services Committee chairman, Frank has been a vocal opponent of UIGEA and has been working for its repeal over the past two years. In authorizing the delay, the two agencies said that financial institutions were not prepared with the mechanisms they needed to block unlawful Internet gambling transactions, but they also noted that the rules did not provide a clear definition of unlawful Internet gambling. This last observation could be significant as it acknowledges one of the bill’s principal vulnerabilities—it broadly defines Internet gambling as games of chance. Opposition groups, notably the Poker Players Alliance, have repeatedly argued (correctly IMHO) that certain online casino games, especially poker, are games of skill.

Online gambling blogs generally greeted the delay positively and hope it is another step in the direction of restoring the freedom to gamble online.

As the Gambling Today blog notes:

The postponement was greatly appreciated by the supporters of online gambling. House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank has two of his sponsored bills coming up for hearing on December 3. Frank said, “This will give us a chance to act in an unhurried manner on my legislation to undo this regulatory excess by the Bush administration and to undo this ill-advised law.”