Congress still afraid to define 'internet gambling'

Whatever it is. It's illegal


The intellectual haze that envelopes American internet gambling policy thickened the past week, as lawmakers failed to define what exactly constitutes "unlawful" internet gambling. As absurd as it sounds, two years after the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), Congress still can’t make up its collective mind as to what behavior the law is intended to cover.

A bill before the House Financial Services Committee would have blocked the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve from enforcing the UIGEA. Even worse, it would have forced the lawmakers to define what constitutes illegal online gambling. Alas, the bill died, leaving our fine nation in the dark.

The UIGEA was attached in the middle of the night to a terrorism-related port security bill at the end of a congressional session, meaning that no one actually read it. The purpose of the law was to freeze internet gambling companies out of the American financial system, and the law put the onus on financial institutions to ensure that Americans were not gambling online.

Financial institutions have complained bitterly about bearing a financial burden more properly borne by the federal government’s own law enforcement agencies, and the Treasury Department has dragged its heels on the matter. There has never been any comprehensive federal law covering gambling, and prior federal law seemed to allow some forms of gambling while banning others. Even the World Trade Organization (WTO) got involved, when Antigua-Barbuda, a scrappy Caribbean internet gambling haven, filed (and won) a claim against the US before the international trade body.

"The financial institutions are in the position of being told not process bets, but it's not clear what is legal and what is illegal," said Representative Barney Frank, the committee's chairman, calling it "a job that is undoable." One of the main sticking points has been check processing, which is still largely done by hand.

Ironically, the law had an even greater impact than its drafters had probably hoped for, even though it has never properly gone into effect. The regulations were supposed to have been drafted over a year ago, but the mere passage of the law wiped billions off the market value of internet companies. Throw in a couple of arrests of prominent European gambling executives on other gambling charges, and the market was in chaos.

Certain types of remote gaming are allowed in the US under the law, such as gambling on horse racing or fantasy sports, and even in its twilight state short of full implementation, the UIGEA has widely been viewed as a hand-out to the domestic gambling industry. Gaming, in all its iterations, is an industry ideally suited to the internet medium, and Congress’s craven inability to define its own laws has left American operators out in the cold, or locked up in jail. Until Congress figures out what it wants to do with an industry they wish would go away, financial institutions and gamblers will remain in limbo. ®


Other stories you might like

  • It's primed and full of fuel, the James Webb Space Telescope is ready to be packed up prior to launch

    Fingers crossed the telescope will finally take to space on 22 December

    Engineers have finished pumping the James Webb Space Telescope with fuel, and are now preparing to carefully place the folded instrument inside the top of a rocket, expected to blast off later this month.

    “Propellant tanks were filled separately with 79.5 [liters] of dinitrogen tetroxide oxidiser and 159 [liters of] hydrazine,” the European Space Agency confirmed on Monday. “Oxidiser improves the burn efficiency of the hydrazine fuel.” The fuelling process took ten days and finished on 3 December.

    All eyes are on the JWST as it enters the last leg of its journey to space; astronomers have been waiting for this moment since development for the world’s largest space telescope began in 1996.

    Continue reading
  • China to upgrade mainstream RISC-V chips every six months

    Home-baked silicon is the way forward

    China is gut punching Moore's Law and the roughly one-year cadence for major chip releases adopted by the Intel, AMD, Nvidia and others.

    The government-backed Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is developing open-source RISC-V performance processor, says it will release major design upgrades every six months. CAS is hoping that the accelerated release of chip designs will build up momentum and support for its open-source project.

    RISC-V is based on an open-source instruction architecture, and is royalty free, meaning companies can adopt designs without paying licensing fees.

    Continue reading
  • The SEC is investigating whistleblower claims that Tesla was reckless as its solar panels go up in smoke

    Tens of thousands of homeowners and hundreds of businesses were at risk, lawsuit claims

    The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into whether Tesla failed to tell investors and customers about the fire risks of its faulty solar panels.

    Whistleblower and ex-employee, Steven Henkes, accused the company of flouting safety issues in a complaint with the SEC in 2019. He filed a freedom of information request to regulators and asked to see records relating to the case in September, earlier this year. An SEC official declined to hand over documents, and confirmed its probe into the company is still in progress.

    “We have confirmed with Division of Enforcement staff that the investigation from which you seek records is still active and ongoing," a letter from the SEC said in a reply to Henkes’ request, according to Reuters. Active SEC complaints and investigations are typically confidential. “The SEC does not comment on the existence or nonexistence of a possible investigation,” a spokesperson from the regulatory agency told The Register.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021