House committee to look at anti-UIGEA bill

American justice

The House Financial Services Committee is scheduled to look at H.R. 5767, a bill that would stop the implementation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, on Tuesday.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) sponsored the bill along with Senator Ron Paul (R-Texas) in response to a hearing that pointed out the flaws in the UIGEA that are not only making it hard to implement, but could make it hard to enforce as well.

On Tuesday, the committee will get a chance to discuss and debate H.R. 5767 as well as make any amendments.

One amendment in the works is the King amendment. In a call to action to its members last week, the Poker Players Alliance explained that the King amendment will force the regulatory agencies to define "unlawful Internet gambling" through a formal rulemaking procedure with due process and opportunity for input from affected parties.

Tuesday could also be a chance for the Financial Services Committee to vote to approve the bill to move on to a vote in the House as well.

Given that Frank is also the chair of the committee, there is a good chance the bill could go to vote and get approved. The PPA is also throwing its weight behind the bill in hopes that this will happen.

"In order to get this bill out of Committee and onto the House Floor, we need your help," the organization said in its call to action to its members.

"We need you to contact the committee and express your support for H.R. 5767, as well as the King amendment which will refine the bill language. PPA strongly supports H.R. 5767 and the King amendment, but this bill and amendment won't pass without your help."

Getting passed in the committee doesn't automatically mean it will go to a House floor vote anytime soon, though. Bills often make it through the committee stage and still don't see a vote on the House floor, much less become law.

Tuesday's action is still important, however, in the process of moving the bill forward. Action on the bill, plus the increasing pressure from the European Union with regard to online gambling, could be the grease needed to get the wheels moving on reversing the online gambling ban.

According to the U.K. Financial Times, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mendelson plans to send a delegation to Washington next month to press its case with U.S. lawmakers and hold a press conference about the online gambling issues between the two governments.

The European Union may be on the verge of bringing its own World Trade Organization complaint against the United States, because it believes the nation is discriminating against its online gambling companies.

Antigua and Barbuda had taken a case to the World Trade Organization claiming that the United States' online gambling ban was a violation of trade regulations set up for WTO member countries.

Antigua won that case after three years of fighting and has been undergoing compensation talks with the United States. Since the inception of the case, however, the United States has toughened its online gambling ban with the UIGEA, and online gambling companies around the world have been forced to close their businesses to U.S. customers.

The U.S. has also chosen to pull out of its WTO agreement with regard to online gambling, which opened it up to claims from any WTO nation that has interests in the online gambling industry.

The European Union did come to a settlement agreement with the United States in that matter, but representatives did say at the time that the EU wouldn't tolerate the United States discriminating against companies headquartered in the Union.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice has been pursuing U.K.-listed companies, including PartyGaming, Sportingbet and 888 Holdings, operators of some of the top online poker sites as well as other betting portals, for violations of its online gambling laws.

The U.S. DOJ has gone so far as to issue subpoenas against some of the European-based banks that advise those online gambling companies.

According to the Financial Times, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab has responded to formal European Commission questions in the matter by saying there is "no basis for any allegations of 'discriminatory enforcement' of U.S. gambling laws."

Instead, the USTR believes the EC's investigation into the matter is based on mistaken assumptions, and that the charges being brought were based on a number of factors, but nationality was not one of them.

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