Are you one of the thousands of online gamblers who have tried to withdraw their winnings, only to learn that the US government had frozen the accounts of the online gambling sites? This is the irony of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement joker123 Act of 2006, called UIGEA for short; the ones that are hurt are the ones who are owed money, and who technically have not broken the law!
If you’re not familiar with the UIGEA, let’s revisit the way it was enacted. The House and Senate voted on and passed the Security and Accountability For Every Port (SAFE Port Act) without the UIGEA included. Then in Conference Report, the UIGEA was added. The House and Senate voted to pass the Conference Report – without ever hearing it read. President Bush signed the law and the shock was tangible across the internet gambling world the next day.
But it’s not just Americans who have been in an uproar. The European Commission and World Trade Organization are making noise as well. They claim that the US is in violation of international trade laws by passing the UIGEA because of the way the law attempts to prevent online gambling. It doesn’t make gambling illegal – it makes it illegal to transfer funds to an internet gambling site from a US financial institution. So of course if you can’t add money to your account, you can’t gamble!
Now, however, there seems to be a change of tune in Washington. President Obama has made it clear that he wants the US to begin cooperating with our international neighbors again, and he plans to start with the UN. While there isn’t a clear signal from the President to legalize online gambling, this new attitude is encouraging. And there are some very loud signals from members of Congress in support of legalizing online gambling.
Two pieces of legislation have been introduced lately that would return the joy to US online gamblers everywhere. One of these is from Representative Barney Frank, who is going to try, again, to overturn the UIGEA. His reason doesn’t have to do with the US abiding by international agreements – instead, he believes Americans should have the right to gamble online for money if they choose to do so. He sees it as an individual rights and a privacy issue more than an international relations issue.
The other proposed legislation is coming from Senator Robert Menendez. His scope is a bit narrower than Franks. Menendez wants to legalize online poker rather than all online gambling. This could be a strategy to feed legalization of gambling piece-meal to the other members of Congress, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Many in the online gaming industry were falsely led to believe that the The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 was all bark and no bite. Since then the department of justice has started to take a bite out of the industry. It all started with the seizure of eWalletexpress, then the seizures of banks in New York State and Washington State followed by seizures of Citadel Commerce and GlobalATM. Now the online gaming industry is concerned the department of justice is serious about enforcing the Gambling act.
In November 2010, eWalletexpress had their funds and accounts seized by the United States Government as part of a confidential investigation. They said that currently they have started negotiating with the government about getting their funds back. At this time eWalletXpress is still unable to access these funds or return them to the players because the money is still not in their custody or control. This means a lot of Online players and online gambling sites have had their money tied up for over half a year with no end in sight. Online players are furious with both the Department Of Justice and eWalletexpress.
The seizures of the bank’s in New York State and Washington State are a bit of a different story. In Washington State an $8 Million Poker Fund was Seized. A number of payment processors involved, including Arrow Checks, Secure Money, Etegrity Processing, Anaya Trading Solutions and Blue Lake Capital Management. They were found to be in violation of the Federal Wire Act of 1961 because online gambling is outlawed in the state of Washington. This varies greatly from other seizures because it was not a direct result of the The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Same thing in New york State, Allied Systems and Account Services found their assets seized also. Their owner was lucky enough to negotiate a settlement for less than half the seized funds and then left the country. Again where does this leave the online players and their money. Out of luck is the answer.
Next are the seizures of Citadel Commerce and GlobalATM. Citadel Commerce had their funds seized back in 2007 by the Department Of Justice. It unclear exactly what has happened in this case and if the online players ever received their money back. Recently, GlobalATM or ECHECK, an online payment processor, is now offline and is unable to be contacted. Its a mystery exactly what happened if the Department Of Justice seized them or they just went out of business. Either way many online gamblers received checks that bounced and had to find other ways to get their funds if they could get them at all.