Barney Frank's HR 6870 Bill Approved

16 September 2008

Today, the House Financial Services Committee reviewed and approved Barney Frank’s second version of his Payments System Protection Act. It was voted through by a 30-19 vote. The bill was initially discussed and verbally voted through. Spencer Bachus, a Republican Congressman then stood up and requested a formal roll call vote at 5.00PM ET. This paved the way for the bill to pass through with ease. This new groundbreaking development in the UIGEA saga may now be transferred onto the floor of the House of Representatives.

HR 6870 was the fourth of five measures being discussed today. It followed a lengthy and strenuous discussion over the HR 6694 bill, known as the FHA Seller-Financed Downpayment Reform and Risk-Based Pricing Authorization Act of 2008, which also passed through with two amendments’ made to the original bill. Congressman Frank commenced the discussion of the HR 6870 bill which will neuter every regulation passed under the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) from being enforced, except for those relating to sportsbooks.

This bill also insists that the Federal Reserve and US Treasury team up with the Attorney General’s office to come to an agreement on what is, and is not legal, within the realms of the UIGEA. This will put an end to most of the grey areas surrounding the UIGEA. This upbeat bill for the online gaming industry was first introduced on Thursday, September 11th; co sponsored by Peter King,  a Republican Congressman.

During the session, Congressman Frank Stated:

“We made some changes to [HR 5767] to try to get a majority of the votes as well as a broader agreement. First, it had always been our intention to allow pro sports leagues to opt out. They asked to be opted out of the bill and we’ve done that. The bill will protect sports from being included. It also asks that a list be prepared by the Treasury of what is and isn’t acceptable. You have a right to know what the law is and this would give people the right to know what is and isn’t covered under the UIGEA.”

Bachus opposed the new move, stating that although he understood  the UIGEA put a heavy burden on banks and other financial institutions due to its vagueness,  he followed it up by stating:

“Online gamblers can play 24 hours per day from home. Children can play without proper age verification. Betting with a credit card can distort a player’s [respect for] cash. Before the act, Americans were sending $6 billion per year to offshore online casinos, nearly half of the $12 billion sent annually. Since the Act, big players in the industry such as PartyGaming have pulled out of the market. Federal regulations restricting the transfer of funds have had their intended effects. We shouldn’t stop now.”

Barney Frank also included A Manager’s Amendment which called for all professional sports leagues to gain a special exemption to the bill. He also requested they be removed from the “blacklist”, Michael Waxman a spokesperson for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative refers to. Frank called for a clear understanding as to what is, and what is not accepted under UIGEA regulation. Bachus also indicated that professional sports leagues opposed the HR 6870 but this passed by with little discussion.

Congressman Peter King and William Lacy Clay completed the discussion on Barney Frank’s Online Gambling Legislation. The amendment was initially passed on a verbal voting majority. Bachus then stood up and requested a formal recorded roll call vote. Due to the absence of several Committee members, the FSC (Financial Services Committee) had no option but to reconvene. At 5.00pm ET, this remarkable new development attacking the legitimacy of the UIGEA within the gaming industry was passed through with a majority of 30-19. Members generally stayed within party lines, the Democrats voting for, the Republicans voting against the bill.

The HR 6870 Bill is now likely to be passed on for discussion on the House floor, even though the planned adjournment date for congress is Friday, 26th September. The recess gives members the opportunity to campaign for the forthcoming US general election, on 4th November.