What is the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act? Could the UIGEA ever be overturned? How does this affect my play?

In 2006, when the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, better known as UIGEA, was passed by Congress, the online gaming community was shocked. Many well-known industry leaders ceased taking bets immediately; before even reading the Statute! They acted hastily, but not without good reason: the government has been looking to pass legislation against online gambling since ’98.

There is much controversy dealing with the implementation of the bill, which led to widespread, if not blatant, refusal to follow suit with the decree. The polls show, however, that the majority of voters believe online gambling is one’s personal choice to make and should not be restricted.

The UIGEA made it illegal for banks to knowingly process online gambling transactions. The regulations would later make it clear that online gambling deposits were covered by this act but withdrawals were not specifically included. The law was hastily written and included several typographical errors and other mistakes such as failing to define exactly what games were considered gambling under the act. The law specifically exempted fantasy sports by the request of professional sports leagues. Horse racing and state lotteries are also implied as being exempted. The consensus is also that games of skill received a carveout.

What does the act claim to do?

The law is what gives federal US law enforcement the right to press charges for participation in online gambling. There’s one part of the bill that stand out from the rest of it:

  • An individual is in violation of the act if:
  • They engage or have engaged in the “business” of placing bets or making
  • The individual accepts said instrument in connection with participation of another person in “unlawful Internet gambling”

The federal government has covered its tracks by this bill; making it illegal to obtain winnings from, participate in, or operate any online gambling inside the United States. This ban extends to using an offshore online casino while living inside the U.S.

Is it possible that the act will get overturned?

As previously mentioned, the law was put into effect under some pretty sketchy circumstances. During the time it was implemented, it was rather sneakily slipped into a Homeland Security bill by the majority Republicans just before the house saw a power shift to favor the Democrats. The circumstances make it susceptible to corruption and open to removal from the system, but it is not likely. Here’s why:

  • Yes, there are people mad about the online gambling ban, but there is also much larger problems plaguing the legislative government in the United States right now.
  • With international tensions growing, the federal government has its hands full with foreign policy matters.
  • On top of that, most of the casino operating inside the US support the act completely.
  • Offshore online gambling was once robbing the industry within the States millions of dollars per year; revenue that is slowly making its way back into America’s economy.
  • Money was being drained out of the national economy because of the frequent use of offshore bank accounts, regardless of from where the service operates itself.

Conclusion

Clearly, the act does serve a purpose when one looks at the big economic picture, but it is quite an annoyance for the online gambling enthusiast. Who knows? Maybe the bill will get overturned within the year;maybe it’ll always be in effect. No one can say for sure.