U.S. Congress passes anti-Internet gambling bill

The U.S. Congress passed an amended version of H.R. 4411, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), Sept. 30 after it was attached to an unrelated Homeland Security bill, the Port Security Improvement Act (H.R. 4954). The bill is expected to be signed into law by President George W. Bush by mid-October.

Despite expectations that the U.S. Senate would block the legislation due to a lack of parliamentary time, Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (R - Tenn.) managed to negotiate the passage of the amended H.R. 4411 by attaching it to H.R. 4954, a bill intended to increase security at U.S. ports. Frist had first attempted to attach the bill to defence legislation in Sept., but failed.

The amended version doesn't criminalize the act of online gambling, rather it prohibits American poker players from using U.S. financial institutions and their banking tools, including credit cards, checks or funds transfers, when depositing or withdrawing funds at Internet gambling sites. If the law is enacted by President Bush, it will become illegal for online gambling companies to accept monies from U.S. financial institutions.

Frist made the following statement after the Senate passed H.R. 4411:

"Gambling is a serious addiction that undermines the family, dashes dreams, and frays the fabric of society. Congress has grappled with this issue for 10 years, and during that time we've watched this shadow industry explode. For me as majority leader, the bottom line is simple: Internet gambling is illegal. Although we can't monitor every online gambler or regulate offshore gambling, we can police the financial institutions that disregard our laws."

Transactions will be monitored by U.S. banking institutions according to regulations written by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Department of Treasury. If President Bush signs the act into law, a 270-day period will be allotted for the Federal Reserve and Department of Treasury to create regulations and procedures for U.S. financial institutions to follow in identifying and blocking transactions related to unlawful Internet gambling. Currently, it is expected that the U.S. banking industry will not be required to implement new technologies to monitor the transactions of clients, but will act in accordance with their own capabilities instead.

The original H.R. 4411 was amalgamated with another anti-Internet gambling act, H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, in July 2006. Subsequently known as the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, H.R. 4411 not only sought to prohibit Internet gambling transactions made through American financial institutions, but also to update the Wire Act of 1961, which prohibits gambling over telephone wires, to include placing wagers on sports betting, casino and poker Web sties. Internet wagers made on state-run lotteries, fantasy games and horse racing were exempt.

Related Articles:

U.S. Threatens Internet Gambling 'Prohibition Bill,' Shares Fall
H.R. 4777
H.R. 4411
House Approves Bill to Stem Online Gambling
Frist Fails in Bid to Attach Online Gambling Ban to Military Bill
William Hill Plc. Stops Taking Poker Bets From U.S.

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Aaron Singer 2009-04-06 03:53:00

Aaron Singer
Rogerian Essay
Professor Patrick Thomas
The Online Poker Ban: Pros, Cons, and How to Compromise
Gambling has been around for centuries and probably will be around for many centuries to come. This is because many people love to gamble. Over the years, the gambling game called poker has become more and more popular, especially among today’s youth. As a poker player, I would say that the main reasons it has become so popular are that it is fun, addicting, and an easy way to make money. More specifically, playing poker on the internet has become increasingly popular (especially amongst the youth) within the past few years. It is because of this new phenomenon that Congress recently passed a bill which would make online poker illegal within the United States.
Those who support the online poker ban justify their position by saying that online poker could be extremely dangerous for today’s youth. They claim that since many of today’s youth spend so much time on the internet and since online poker is so addicting, there is a great chance that many children will be spending much of their time playing online poker rather than doing homework or getting exercise. Furthermore, too much online poker is quite risky for ignorant children because it is very easy to lose huge amounts of money in short amounts of time. As Jim Leach (member of the U.S. House of Representatives and supporter of the online poker ban) said, “Never before has it been so easy to lose so much money so quickly at such a young age” (1). Congress’ main fear is that online poker will cause young kids to lose huge amounts of money and go in debt to their banks, leaving their parents to bail them out and, ultimately, weaken the economy even more.
Supporters of the online poker ban believe that the arguments for the ban outweigh the arguments against it. That is because most of the supporters are conservatives who feel that gambling in general goes against their core values. As Jim Leach said to the House of Representatives, “The reason the religious community has come together is that they are concerned for the unity of the American family. ... Religious leaders of all denominations and faiths are seeing gambling difficulties erode family values” (1). Therefore, the anti-poker advocates have two big issues. Firstly, they are against online poker because of the risk it involves with ignorant, easily-addicted youth. Secondly, they are against poker in general because they believe gambling goes against religious family values. Therefore, poker ban supporters feel that the bill must be passed, even though the passage of this new bill could mean taking many internet poker sites out of business and possibly putting many Americans citizens who are avid online poker players in financial jeopardy.
Everyone would probably agree that we all want children to be safe and the economy to do well. The main fear held by the online poker ban supporters is that online poker will inevitably cause children to lose large sums of money and end up stifling the economy even more. I think most people, including myself, would agree that this is a serious concern which must be addressed. Although we cannot say for certain that many children will play poker recklessly, it would be irresponsible of the Government to simply allow all children to play poker without putting any sort of boundaries in place. Every child that plays poker irresponsibly is putting his entire family at risk both ethically and financially.
I agree that playing online poker could be dangerous for children. However, I do not believe it should be banned completely due to certain ethical and economical factors, such as the possibility of putting internet poker sites out of business, the possibility of putting American online poker players in financial jeopardy, and certain issues with internet censorship and freedom of speech. I also agree that these arguments against the ban may not outweigh the arguments for it, but I do not think that means that the ban is the perfect solution. I believe, and I think most people would agree, that rather than choosing a rock over a hard place, we, as the American people who believe in freedom and equality must make sure that the Government finds a solution that would help everyone. The Government must find a solution that would protect American children from reckless gambling, yet also protect the internet poker businesses, American online poker players, and the American citizen’s right to freedom of speech.
The issue of children playing reckless poker online is an issue that must be dealt with. However, I do not think it calls for a complete internet poker ban for all American citizens. Since the trouble here is with the youth, should we not get right to the source of the problem and stop the youth themselves from playing poker? Of course we should; however, that does not mean that the Government must ban mature, responsible American adults from playing poker as well. A simple way to appease advocates from both sides of the issue would be to enforce a law that one must be twenty-one or older in order to play online poker. On the other hand, I am not simply claiming that all Americans twenty-one and older will be responsible online poker players. Therefore, I think the Government must deal with the issue of irresponsible adults playing online poker as well.
Since adults are not impervious to the addiction of online poker, the Government must enforce internet poker laws which would protect them as well. I propose that the Government enforce a law that the poker websites must put a limit on how much money an individual can lose in one day. Doing this, would give the individual time to sleep, refresh their mind, and begin to refocus before starting to play again.
Furthermore, the Government should enforce a law that the websites must advertise the importance of gambling responsibly, offer tips on how to play poker well and when to stop, and most importantly, provide links on the site to online stores which can offer them poker training books written by poker professionals. In terms of which books the poker sites should encourage people to buy, “Poker for Dummies”, by Lou Krieger and Richard D. Harroch is a great example. It is not only inexpensive, (less than seven dollars a copy); it also provides great poker advice. In the review on “Poker for Dummies”, it states, “(This book provides) tips on how to bet wisely and responsibly, and more” (1).
If the Government follows this advice and puts restrictions and rules on what the poker websites can and cannot do, rather than banning the sites completely, the Government would be solving five problems instead of just one. Firstly, the youth will not be in jeopardy of losing large sums of money because they will not be allowed to play online poker. Secondly, the poker websites will be able to stay in business. Thirdly, the American citizens who make a living off of online poker will still be able to have their stable income. Fourthly, the Government would not have to resort to blocking the poker websites which would be a form of internet censorship, a practice which Government preaches against. As Robert McMahon, deputy editor of Council on Foreign Relations wrote, “The Global Online Freedom Act of 2007 (H.R. 275) was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in October 2007. It would make it illegal for U.S. companies hosting Internet content, such as web pages or e-mail, to give users’ personal information to governments that restrict Internet access” (1). The Global Online Freedom Act was the United States Government’s way of showing that they are against restricting Internet access. If The United States Government is against internet censorship in other countries, it would be hypocritical of the Government to censor websites within America. Lastly, many people are concerned with the issue of freedom of speech. As the Tight Poker Staff state in their website, “One of the most important and unalienable rights of the U.S. citizen is the freedom of speech. Many critics say that Americans are being denied the right to choose what they can and cannot do in their own homes” (1). If the Government limits the abilities of the poker sites instead of banning them completely, the Government would dodge the internet censorship issue and the freedom of speech issue as well.
There are a few more important reasons why online poker should be allowed in America. Playing poker online is not only entertaining; it is also important to the economy. American citizens can gamble online with people all over the world. Therefore, when Americans win money from people in other countries, they are importing money from other countries into America. In addition, many poker players are also investors, and the more money American investors make, the more money they can invest in American companies. Furthermore, most of the poker websites are free and they would therefore allow all American citizens, whether rich or poor, to have a chance to better their financial situation. Without internet poker, avid online poker players might resort to playing poker in person with other random people whom they may or may not know. This would not only be inconvenient; it would also be dangerous. The two most important differences between playing poker online and playing poker in person are that online poker is more convenient and that online poker is also safer. Playing poker online is more convenient because it is not always easy to find people who want to play poker, but there is always a poker game happening online. It is also safer because, instead of having to entrust your money with people you do not know, the proven trustworthy poker websites handle all the monetary situations.
Since the bill on banning internet poker in America has already been passed in the Senate, it will now go to the President. My advice for him is to seek compromise and amend the bill before passing it. For example, rather than putting a complete ban on internet poker, I think it would be in America’s best interest if the Government put a moratorium on internet poker. This would mean temporarily banning internet poker only until the Government can make an ethical and economically intelligent decision about the poker websites’ restrictions and obligations. This would ensure the safety of our internet-addicted youth while at the same time stimulating our economy and enabling responsible internet poker players to reap its benefits.

Works Cited
Michael Rozeff. “Bombs Away on Internet Gambling.” LewRockwell. 3/29/09 <www.lewrockwell.com>
“Poker for Dummies.” The House of Cards. 3/29/09 <www.thehouseofcards.com>
Robert McMahon. “U.S. Internet Providers and ‘The Great Firewall of China’.” Council on Foreign Relations. 3/29/09 <www.cfr.org>
Tight Poker Staff. “Congress Passes Ban on Internet Gambling.” Tight Poker. 3/29/09 <www.tightpoker.com>