In what has been a surprising move (considering how late in the legislative session the action comes and the lack of previous interest in the subject), Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas has filed a bill on the Senate agenda that looks to be taking up the action of either banning online gaming and poker or putting some teeth into the law that is used against the industry, the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006.
Cotton’s bill, which was filed on Friday afternoon, is S. 3376 and it has been filed with the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, meaning it is eligible for debate and, if it should occur, voting for its passage. The bill’s title is a bit meandering but it firmly states it is “(A) bill to ensure the integrity of laws enacted to prevent the use of financial instruments for funding or operating online casinos are not undermined by legal opinions not carrying the force of law issued by Federal Government lawyers.”
Deciphering the legalese, S. 3376 has potentially several different interpretations. One is that it would look to reverse the Christmas 2011 decision by the Department of Justice that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting and no other online activities, such as casino gaming and poker. That decision, handed down in response to the states of Illinois and New York’s inquiries as to the legality of using the internet for online lottery sales, opened the doors for intrastate online gaming operations that came about in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware and those being considered in other states such as California, Pennsylvania and New York.
Another potential interpretation could be in that it is looking to expand the Wire Act, reworking it in a manner to make it more applicable to today’s fast-paced world. It could also be a bill that will firmly prohibit using credit/debit cards for gambling transactions, whether they are legal (as in a Las Vegas casino) or illegal. Finally, it could actually put some enforcement action into the UIGEA, which was passed with no punishments nor enforcement actions taken.
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