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A Move to Simplify the UIGEA

By: R. Kingsley, Friday August 1st 2008
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Ever since the boom of online casinos the biggest stumbling block in its path has been the UIGEA. The UIGEA has put a near total end to gamblers from the United States and this has curtailed the growth of online gambling. The UIGEA has also been instrumental in the European Union and the Government of Antigua starting proceedings against the United States for discriminatory trade practices. The biggest problem that financial institutions are facing with respect to UIGEA is the uncertainty over what is permissible and what is not. Hence they are taking the safe option of completely cutting of transfer of funds to online casinos.

Till now it was the Democratic Party that had taken the lead in trying to overturn the UIGEA. They had met with limited success because votes had been split along party lines. Now four Republican Congressmen have stepped into the frat. They are Judy Biggert, Jim Gerlach, Christopher Shays and Kevin McCarthy. Their objective is not to revoke the UIGEA but to simplify it and make it practicable so that the interests of both the nation and the online gaming industry are protected. In order to achieve this objective the Republicans have sent an open letter to Henry M. Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury, and Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The letter opens with the lines, "We are writing to request that you bring clarity to the Federal Reserve Board's and U.S. Department of the Treasury's proposed regulations to implement the UIGEA." The letter goes on to state that it is unfair to hold the public and the online gaming industry accountable for noncompliance of the regulations when the regulations vague. Further as the regulations stand today they provide an unnecessary burden and cost particularly to small businesses.

Therefore the Republican Congressmen in question desire that the Board and Treasury first clearly and unambiguously define "unlawful internet gambling". They have also made some recommendations as to how to move ahead in this matter. They desire that the regulation making process be carried out under the authority of an Administrative Law Judge. The specific brief for this official would be examine the existing state and federal laws with respect to compatibility with the UIGEA and to clearly list which financial institutions come under the ambit of the UIGEA. The second recommendation is to carry out Regulatory Flexibility Analysis to exactly ascertain the cost burden that the UIGEA will impose on the online gaming industry. Finally these Congressmen aver that they do not oppose the UIGEA. They want the UIGEA but in a manner that all issues are resolved upfront so that there are fewer legal tangles in the times ahead.

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