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iMEGA Furthers UIGEA Action

By: Sam Chalmers, Monday October 6th 2008
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The Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) filed its expected brief in the matter of iMEGA v. Keisler, et al late last month. The brief has been filed with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. This sees the iMEGA back in action against the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) after a hiatus of about six months.

In March 2008 the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey had dismissed iMEGA's petition in the above-mentioned case. The Honorable Mary L. Cooper had said that the United States Congress had the right to pass laws in a constitutional manner and that her court did not want to interfere with the process. Despite the dismissal of the petition, Judge Cooper's order was welcomed by the iMEGA and the online gaming industry for two reasons. One was that it acknowledged iMEGA's right to represent members of the online gaming industry in court, which was being challenged by the United States Government. The second reason was that the judgment acknowledged that there were faults in the UIGEA, the redressing of which were best left to the higher courts, possibly the Supreme Court. Accordingly iMEGA had then filed a Notice of Appeal in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals (Philadelphia).

In the brief filed in September 2008 the iMEGA highlights two issues against the UIGEA. It states that the fundamental rights of privacy, speech, expression, and conduct granted to United States citizens in real space should equally apply in cyber space. Simply because the transaction is being carries over the Internet it does not mean that fundamental rights do not apply. The implication is that if a person can walk into a land casino and play blackjack without violating any law then he should be allowed to do the same at online casinos.

The second issue is that the UIGEA should be overturned under the "void for vagueness" concept. This concept states that a statute is unconstitutional if the following issues lack clarity and depend on subjective interpretation: who falls within the scope of the statute; what conduct is forbidden and what is the punishment that can be imposed for violation. The UIGEA has made it illegal to fund unlawful Internet gambling but has not defined what unlawful Internet gambling is. It has left it to the financial institutions to determine what is unlawful and not to transfer funds in cases the institutions deem to be unlawful. The Department of Treasury has testified that it is unable to determine what is lawful and what is unlawful. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia is known to be protective of the fundamental rights of speech and expression and the iMEGA is hoping for a favorable decision there

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