Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Door is Closing: Hoping for UIGEA Delay

The Door is Closing: Hoping for UIGEA DelayYesterday on the Two Plus Two forums, a question was asked about “how pivotal are the next 24 hours” when it comes to the possibility that compliance with the finalized regulations for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 -- scheduled to begin next Tuesday, December 1 -- will be delayed.

According to Rich “The Engineer” Muny, a member of the Board of Directors of the Poker Players Alliance, “If [the] Treasury decides to delay implementation of the bill, it could be announced tomorrow, or it could go to Monday just as easily.” Indeed, as Muny implies, since the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us, if we don’t hear anything today, then Monday is really the last chance.

It is very difficult for the average shamus to detect the odds of a delay with any precision here. I’ve been reading the forums and other sites, and occasionally see expressions of optimism about the feds stepping in here and extend the deadline. But it is hard to tell from where such optimism comes.

On November 20 (last Friday), an article titled “High Stakes for Online Gamblers” popped up over on the Newsweek blog regarding the impending deadline and the recent request for a delay. The article, by Jeremy Herb, makes reference to an unnamed “Federal Reserve official” saying that a decision regarding delaying compliance had yet to be made.

That’s with just a week-and-a-half to go. Talk about a sweat.

Petition to delay UIGEAHerb’s article additionally provides a decent overview of the situation, including some background on how the UIGEA came to be and the problems that still exist for banks and other financial institutions with regard to implementation. Herb references that October 1 letter from House Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) -- also signed by 17 other members of Congress -- asking the Department of Treasury and Federal Reserve “to extend the date of compliance for the final regulations implementing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) by one year.” The feds do have the power to enact such a delay thanks to something called the Administrative Procedure Act.

He also notes that other November 3 letter, also sent to Timothy Geithner (Secretary of the Treasury) and Ben Bernanke (Chairman of the Federal Reserve) by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) in which they “strongly oppose” the request made by Frank et al. for an extension, arguing that “there is no justification for delaying the compliance deadline of the UIGEA regulations.”

Among other points made by Kyl and Bachus, they cite the fact that banks have already had nearly a year to ready themselves for compliance, and so should not need any further time in that regard. Also, the pair notes how the “Final Rule was adopted after a lengthy and open rulemaking process,” and that any “‘problems’ [they use the scare quotes] raised by certain interest groups are speculative.”

You remember Kyl as one of the first authors of the bill that eventually became the UIGEA, and Bachus as the clown who in House hearings rode a moral high horse while misrepresenting studies about gambling and Full Tilt Poker pro biographies. (If yr curious, here is a post in which I shared some details from Bachus’ mostly deranged contributions to the discussion of online gambling.)

The most infuriating moment in their letter comes at the end when they characterize the delay request as “a blatant attempt to circumvent the democratic process.” O RLY?

Let us think back to how the bill came to be passed by the House and Senate back on September 30, 2006 after being sneakily appended to the Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006. There was zero discussion of the UIGEA part of the bill when the House and Senate hastily voted in favor of the SAFE Port Act in their final session of the 2006 Congress. Then President George W. Bush signed it into law two weeks later. Indeed, thanks in large part to then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sen. Kyl, their efforts represented as “blatant” an example of legislators working “to circumvent the democratic process” as it gets.

Timothy Geithner and Ben BernankeThe fact is, both Geithner (top) and Bernanke (bottom) -- the ones to whom the petition to delay compliance has been directed -- have a lot else on their minds at the moment. Geithner’s status as Treasury Secretary is presently more than a little tenuous. Just last week he was explicitly asked to resign by House Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). Said Brady to Geithner, “the public has lost all confidence in your ability to do your job. Conservatives agree... liberals agree... it is time for a fresh start.”

Bernanke is also facing a lot of opposition from Congress at the moment. President Obama has already nominated Bernanke for a second four-year term as Federal Reserve Chairman, but Congress has to approve the nomination, and it is expected that their approval -- if it comes -- will not be without a lot of strife. The first hearing on that matter is scheduled for next Thursday, December 3.

So the guys who have to step in here and do something for us... well, one wonders how high a priority the UIGEA really is to them at the moment.

It’s frustrating as hell. We took a big hit early on in this one, and have been playing with a short stack from the get-go. Now the blinds have finally caught up with us. We have to catch a hand to survive.

Here’s hoping we do get the word today of a delay, and thus have something else to be thankful for tomorrow.

(EDIT [added 11/25/09, 10:30 a.m.]: This just in -- the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Barney Frank, will be meeting on Thursday, December 3 at 10:00 a.m. to discuss his two bills, the Reasonable Prudence in Regulation Act [H.R. 2266] and the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act [H.R. 2267]. Of course the former bill -- which seeks to delay implementation of the UIGEA regs one year -- would apparently be somewhat moot should the regs go into effect on 12/1. Again, hard to read this announcement as an indicator of anything specific with regard to a possible delay. Stay tuned!)

(EDIT [added 11/25/09, 3:25 p.m.): The Engineer is reporting there may be a six-month delay in the implementation of the finalized regs. Read here. Good news, if this turns out to be the case!)

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Blogger Jordan said...

Bureaucracy being what it is, I'll be shocked if anything of substance happens on the Dec. 1 deadline. It's much easier to delay, delay, delay.

11/25/2009 4:43 PM  

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