HR6870 – US Online Poker Players Celebrate

On Tuesday the Bill HR 6870 introduced by Chairman Barney Frank and known as “Payment Systems Protection Act of 2008” passed the Financial Services Committee with 30 voting in favor of the Bill and 19 against. The Bill now heads to the House of Representatives for a vote.

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Incidentally this is the second version of the Bill, the earlier version being HR5767.

HR6870 seeks a definition of what is and is not legal under the UIGEA and asks for suspension of all regulations of the UIGEA till that is done. Frank initiated the discussion of his Bill. He said, “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.”

Republican Congressman Spencer Bachus initiated the opposition to the Bill. He acknowledged the possible ambiguities in the UIGEA but stressed on the harmful effects of us poker sites and Internet gambling. He said that Internet gambling allows for round the clock gambling and that too from home. People can gamble with money they don not have using credit cards. Children can bypass the age verification checks and indulge in gambling. Bachus also cited the positive effects the UIGEA has had since it was introduced in 2006. The spending on offshore online gambling has fallen from $12 billion a year to $6 billion a year. Big players like PartyGaming have exited the U.S market. Bachus added, “Federal regulations restricting the transfer of funds have had their intended effects. We shouldn’t stop now.”

Some minor amendments were introduced and passed. The Republican sponsor of the Bill, Peter King, also spoke in its favor. The HR 6870 was also passed orally but Bachus insisted on a recorded roll call vote. Therefore the committee had to be reconvened but the Bill was easily passed. The Bill now will be voted on the House floor. It is not clear whether this vote will take place before the House adjourns on 26 September or during the “lame duck” session later.

The Poker Players Association had been closely following these developments and was overjoyed at the outcome. The president of the association, Alfonse D’Amato, immediately issued a statement in which he congratulated both Democrats and Republicans in the House Committee for passing the Bill and thanked Chairman Frank for the stewardship provided by him.

Wayne Brough in an article titled Don’t Risk Innovation to a Bureaucratic Misinterpretation, which can be read in full at the Poker Players association web site, said that the opposition to the UIGEA should go beyond its curb Ion Internet gambling. He wrote, “What is at stake is protecting the rights of all individuals as guaranteed by the Constitution. Federal encroachment on the Internet to regulate various activities politicizes innovation and encourages government regulation of legitimate commercial activity.”

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