by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
It seems online casino gambling is the hot topic in U.S. government legislation this year, as yet another Congressional bill has been proposed in opposition to the UIGEA. HR6663, or the UIGEA Clarification Act, is Representative Pete Sessions attempt to limit prosecution of online gambling activity prior to 2006.
The new bill would certainly prove beneficial to online casino companies that had been active in the U.S. gambling market prior to the passing of the UIGEA. Many online gambling establishments and third party payment processors were forced out of U.S. revenue after the Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act was signed in late 2006, but still faced criminal charges. HR6663 seeks to prohibit any further federal prosecution, based on internet gambling or the financing of such, on any company or individual that no longer accepted U.S. wagers after October 13, 2006.
Online casino, sports betting, and poker websites like Party Gaming, 888.com, as well as NETeller and Citadel, who withdrew from the U.S. Market when the UIGEA was introduced, still faced punitive action. Since the signing of the UIGEA, there have been numerous reports that major online gambling companies have met with American authorities to try to avoid criminal charges for pre-UIGEA violations, and therefore would receive the new bill with enthusiasm.
HR6663 does not protect online sports betting companies that accepted wagers before or after the UIGEA’s enforcement. Officials believe that the new bill entails a “sense of Congress” provision that the implementation of the UIGEA should be focused on sports betting.
The bill states that “prior to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, Public Law 109-347, on October 13, 2006, Federal law was both vague and outdated regarding Internet Gambling activities, as Federal criminal gambling statutes were passed decades before the commercial use of the Internet. To date, all Federal Internet gambling prosecutions have involved sports betting, creating a lack of authoritative court decisions on the applicability of other federal criminal statues to Internet poker and casino-style gambling.”
It goes on to say that sports betting is viewed as particularly harmful to the gambling community because of its “impact on the integrity of professional and amateur sports.” Sports betting, which is illegal in 49 of 50 states seems to be the whipping boy of the gambling community. The bill does not however, address the issue of horse racing, which is the only legalized form of sports wagering both online and off.
HR6663, like many other bills introduced, also calls for clarification of the UIGEA and what is considered illegal. The bill referred to the House Committee on Wednesday, but further action will be delayed because of the August recess of Congress. The same recess has help up Representative Shelley Berkley’s proposal for an independent study of internet gambling. It is thought to be unlikely that anything will happen with HR6663 until September.