Friday the 13th was certainly an unlucky day for Internet Gambling companies in the US as President Bush signed the SAFE (Security and Accountability for Every) Port Act and as a consequence the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) section of the bill.
The UIGEA has made it unlawful for online gamblers to use a US bank or other US financial institution to deposit or withdraw money at internet gambling sites. The signing of the bill effectively cripples the online industry in the US and is causing repercussions for the industry as a whole as it relies heavily on the income from the American market.
President Bush signed the SAFE Port Act on Friday to help prevent terrorists utilising the 11 million shipping containers that enter the country each year. The seemingly unrelated UIGEA section of the bill looked unlikely to be outlawed until Bill Frist, the Republican leader in the Senate, managed to tag it on to the SAFE Port Act. On signing the act, Bush remarked that the bill would strengthen homeland security but made no mention of the consequences to the internet gambling community.
Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance said: "Today is a dark day for the great American game of poker. Twenty-three million Americans who play the game online will effectively be denied the ability to enjoy this popular form of entertainment, even in the privacy of their own homes."
Confusion between the Justice Department and the federal courts has existed for sometime, unable to agree whether internet gambling is illegal or not. The Justice Department states that the 1961 Wire Act which prohibits betting transactions via telephone, also applies to the internet, where as the American courts have stated that betting on sports teams over the internet is illegal but gambling on casino games, such as poker, is not.
The new bill will not effect online betting on horseraces despite the Justice Department considering this past-time illegal. Other areas which will not be hit by the bill include online lotteries, online fantasy sporting events or the gambling houses across America. It is estimated that Americans wagered $6 billion on internet gambling sites last year.
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