For online poker players in the United States, that is a title worthy of tilting. Yet it's something they have to keep an eye on if they want to enjoy a good game of Texas Hold 'EM or Omaha online...and play with cash money.
What exactly IS the UIGEA and How Did It Come into Law?
The UIGEA was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in October 2006. It was tacked on to another unrelated bill, the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 (or the SAFE Port Act). It's been written that Congress never debated the bill and that most congressmen who voted on the bill didn't even read it. Tennessee Republican Bill Frist, who wanted to run for President and use his anti-gaming views to influence other right-wing interests, attached the UIEGA at the last minute. Of course, he never ran for president and is no longer practicing politics.
The purpose of the UIGEA is to stop financial institutions (such as banks and credit card companies) from approving or allowing transactions to internet gaming sites. In other words, if someone wants to play on popular poker sites for example, that person can't use his or her credit card or checking account to transfer money to his/her online poker account. Additionally, the federal government asked for cooperation from foreign countries who allowed internet gambling to block US players from their sites. According to the UIGEA text, internet gambling was (and is) a growing cause of debt collection for both banks and the credit card industry.
Exactly what does the UIGEA cover and not cover?
The UIEGA covers betting via online poker rooms (such as Full Tilt, Pokerstars, Ultimate Bet, PartyPoker, etc.), online casino sites, and online lottery sites. This can be considered controversial, as the text does not clearly define the terms "bet" or "wager". Again, it is specific to the financial institutions and credit card industries who authorize transactions to such sites. The UIEGA does not cover the individual making the bet or wager. It also covers online poker rooms and sites that are running their business illegally in the United States.
What the UIEGA does NOT cover is anything considered to be under a law that is already in existence. Examples include horse racing, dog racing, state lotteries, casinos on Indian reservations, and fantasy sports. Since these are already regulated under various other acts, they are exempt from the UIGEA.
What is the Impact of the UIGEA?
Once the UIGEA was passed, some online poker rooms that operated in the United States closed off their business to American players. However, there is evidence that American players have not stopped playing games of chance online; if anything, the industry has grown. Organizations have popped up to fight Congress and repeal the existing UIGEA. Another suggestion that has caused heated debate is to legalize online gambling in the US and tax it, therefore allowing the federal government to take advantage of the tax benefits.
It is apparent that US gamblers have yet to stop betting, and they continue to seek out ways to deposit funds to online poker rooms and casinos. Especially poker players, who argue that poker is more of a game of skill than chance, and therefore should be exempt from UIGEA. Only time will tell what the future holds for online gambling.