More bad news for the dwindling few who support the UIGEA: a congressional hearing held Wednesday April 2 saw the largest and most financially powerful group of International companies, experts and major associations gathered to express their views on the controversial legislation.
In a two hour hearing held by the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology, experts and representatives from the Federal Reserve, the American Bankers Association, Wells Fargo & Co, Credit Union National Association, the US Treasury and the Financial Services Roundtable continued to debate the possible shortcomings and hypocrisies of the UIGEA.
The hazy definition of what exactly “illegal Internet gambling” is became one of the main points of the hearing. Whether remote betting on horse racing is included as an illegal form of interstate gaming as Louise Roseman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System said it is. Or whether horserace betting should be considered as a legal form of gaming as the original language of the UIGEA and a decision by the Fifth Circuit maintain.
US Representative and longtime advocate of the Internet Poker player, Barney Frank keyed in on the questionable distinction made by the UIGEA between illegal Internet gaming and horse racing: “…I admit that I am not a biblical scholar, and I often am unable to follow some of the distinctions that biblical scholars make…I cannot find the exemption for horse racing in all of the anti-gambling morality or in the statistics on people being addicted. But as I understand it, we did get a letter from the gentlemen in Kentucky urging that you make clear that we are exempting horse racing. Which I thought betting on a horse was gambling but apparently betting on a horse is not gambling, perhaps it’s animal husbandry.”
Former Presidential candidate, Ron Paul also came down hard against the UIGEA. “I stand opposed to the regulations being discussed today because I opposed the underlying bill upon which these regulations are based," he continued. "The ban on internet gambling infringes on two freedoms that are important to many Americans: the ability to do with their money as they see fit, and the freedom from government interference with the internet."
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, chairman of theSubcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology added that there is so much private betting going on in America that it will be difficult to lay the theoretical foundation for a ban on Internet gaming. “I hope you can outlaw the foursome in front of me on the golf course from those putt stopping bets so I can get through the day a lot quicker.”
Harriet May, a representative of the Credit Union National Association, repeatedly drove home the fact that the Association does and would support the enforcement of reasonable laws curtailing unlawful Internet gambling. But continued to say that the UIGEA unclearly defines what exactly illegal Internet gambling is and that to comply with the law would be counterproductive to their business. "With the current mortgage crisis and other economic pressures, we hope that Congress will reconsider whether this is an appropriate time to ask us to dedicate resources to try to comply with what we view as an unworkable law.”
While no official legislative end is in the works for the UIGEA, the frequency of such hearings and the level of private participation have increased dramatically over the past six months. But with the 270 day deadline for companies to comply with the UIGEA almost up, and both Gary Kaplan, the founder of BetonSports Plc, and Peter Dicks, the British Chairman of Sportingbet Plc, awaiting trial, a definitive end to the UIGEA saga seems likely to come soon.