Barney Frank Internet Gambling Bill : HR 6870

15 September 2008

On Thursday, Congressman Barney Frank proposed a new online gambling bill, the HR 6870. The bill is scheduled to be recommended tomorrow, Tuesday 16th September 2008 to the House Financial Services Committee. One of five proposals to enter room 2128 of the Rayburn House Office Building, at 1:00pm ET, in Washington, D.C., the HR 6870 offers online gamblers a glimmer of hope.

Most people know of the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), the vague law proposed by self serving US politicians, to restrict US resident’s freedom to gamble online. Their main route of attack was to bully payment processors into withdrawing their services to players online, not to mention gaming sites.

This new bill HR 6870, which will be known as the Payment Systems Protection Act of 2008 blocks the US Treasury or Federal Reserve from legally enforcing any UIGEA regulation…

“To the extent as any such regulation pertains to wagering of the type that is prohibited under chapter 178 of title 28, United States Code (relating to professional and amateur sports protection).”

In layman’s terms, the UIGEA would be invalidated in relation to all forms of online gambling except sportsbook betting. There is a buzz of anticipation over this news in the online poker forums. For poker players, this new bill, if implemented could see the end to a disastrous two years of uncertainty over the legality of online poker, brought about by a minority of venomous illogical, US congressmen.

If the current regulations are suspended, the HR 6870 will then go on to call for an administrative law judge, to oversee the Treasury and Federal Reserve. They will knock heads to develop and implement newer and clearer regulations. This bill insists that the new guidelines must include a complete definition to the term, “Unlawful Internet Gambling.” A complete economic impact study of these proposed regulations will also be put into motion.

This new, possibly groundbreaking bill was officially introduced by Peter King, A Republican Congressman from New York, on the 11th September. The UIGEA has become a bit of a political slugfest. The US government stepped in; they have bullied anyone who stood by the WTO (World Trade Organization) official ruling. The public did not want their interference on this matter. They have not taken into account public opinion, or international rulings, but now we must sit back and hope they find a solution to the problem they introduced.

Now that the US government have got their claws in, I cannot see them slithering back out. In my opinion, their interference was nothing to do with protecting their citizens, from the evils of gambling. Their aim was not to protect their own voters from rogue casinos. Their plot was plain and simple, to extract tax money from a thriving international online industry. Al Capone’s choice of weapon may have been a baseball bat. The US Governments went down the accountants’ road. The results are the same, extortion.

Spokesperson for the SSIGI (Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative), Michael Waxman stated:

“There seems to be a general consensus that a solution is needed now. I believe that’s the reason why Congressman Frank is continuing to push this issue. He has a sense of what the financial services sector can bear. He wants to make sure that they are not charged with enforcing the UIGEA on their own.”

Barney Frank has been the frontman behind the legalization of online gambling within the US borders. He is relentless in his aim to fight for online gaming freedom. With help from congressman, Ron Paul, he introduced the initial version of the Payments System Protection Act, in April. The bill failed to make it through the house that time. Frank also put forward the HR 2046, known as the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, which puts in place a concise framework to license and regulate online gambling within the US. That bill was introduced in April 2007 in response to the UIGEA, seven months earlier.

Barney Frank’s dogged perseverance has ensured the pressure has been kept on; Congressman Pete Sessions has also joined the movement. His bill, the HR 6663, interprets the UIGEA to exclude online poker. His view is that it can only be enforced against online sportsbooks. This bill was met by disproval from another of the industry’s main lobbying groups, the (PPA) Poker Players Alliance. The PPA’s view is that online poker has always been legal, that there is no case to answer.

Tomorrow is D-Day for the HR 6870. During the mark up process, amendments may be added as required. If the bill meets the committee’s approval, it will be taken to the vote by the U.S. House of Representatives. There is only a matter of weeks left before the Congress adjourns for the general elections. All we can do in the meantime is keep our fingers crossed and wait.

I believe where the money goes, so must politician. I also believe, in reference to the WTO ruling, that each country, including the US should respect international guidelines. Other countries have introduced, unobtrusive safety guidelines regarding online gambling. In that respect, the US appears to be a backward nation.

I am happy reading the fun laws that made US such a great nation. In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on Sundays can be jailed. In Alabama it is illegal to wear a fake mustache in church and cause “unseemly laughter.” In Washington D.C., it is illegal for small boys to throw stones & there is no bigger stone than the UIGEA. In the city of York, it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, unless he is carrying a bow and arrow.

All joking aside, I hope this Bill goes through. The industry is in dire need of clarity. Online gamers are in need of regulated safety nets. Either way, it will be a relief if we win this battle. I will be thankful if the US Congress can talk their way out of this mess. I won’t be overly thankful because  their meddling caused this mess. Eventually the US Government will get a slice of the pie and back out from the silly, unenforceable law but I hope people see them for what they are, bullies!

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