Is it June 1st already?

In 2006 the United States Congress decided to make the U.S. Financial system the enforcement for Internet gambling with the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). But, the new law would not be put into effect until the rules that the banks would be forced to follow were finalized. They were finally

In 2006 the United States Congress decided to make the U.S. Financial system the enforcement for Internet gambling with the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). But, the new law would not be put into effect until the rules that the banks would be forced to follow were finalized. They were finally supposed to be implemented by December of last year, but Rep. Barney Frank and the House Finance Committee were able to block the implementation, at least for another 6 months. Well, six months is up and June 1 is the new date for banks and payment processors to block all transactions associated with ‘illegal online gambling’.

One of the biggest sticking points for Frank and the banks was what constitutes a payment to an ‘illegal’ online gambling operator. After all, no one in this administration or any previous ones has been able to actually define what that ‘illegal online gambling’ is, and thus banks and payment processors really do not know which transactions to block. The fear amongst Frank and his legislative buddies was not only the cost to financial institutions (always a biggie when you have the ear of the banking lobbyists), but the fear that any suspected transactions, including legitimate ones, would be denied.

The OSGA has been getting swamped with inquiries as to what would happen come June 1. We have been telling players since the passage of the UIGEA, that the movement of money for the purposes of gambling online, except for U.S.-based horse racing sites and lotteries, is illegal because of the 2006 law. We also have spoken with online gaming companies worldwide who tell repetitive horror stories, usually involving getting money back to players in the States. In reality, the banks are already doing more due diligence on ‘suspected’ transactions. We have reported on many companies that process money back to U.S. players which have been shut down and had funds confiscated for several years. As it turns out, the effects of this law have already been felt, and it’s not yet June.

Last week we got a disturbing report that a player had his debit card shut down by his local bank. Apparently, he had made several deposits with an online gaming operation located off of U.S. soil. These transactions were identified as illegal and his debit card was shut down, I guess so that he could make no further deposits with it. This is quite alarming, as it was not the transactions that were blocked, it was the players debit card that was shut down. His account remained open, but his card was shut down.

This may be an example of the frustration that the banks are going to have with ambiguous rules and regulations. Unfortunately for everyone, the UIGEA makes financial institutions police, judge and executioner. They will simply block first and ask questions later. In New Hampshire and North Dakota, overblocking led to denial of legal online lottery purchases several years ago. The blocking of legitimate transaction is one of the biggest arguments against the ambiguous UIGEA. Yet, who can blame the banking system? They will be fined if they process money to/from an Internet gambling house, even if they just missed a check or debit.

It is important to keep in mind that the UIGEA was not written to go after any player sending money offshore or receiving payouts from gaming companies. Instead, it enforces steep penalties on financial institutions for allowing ‘illegal Internet gambling’ transactions to occur.

The same player continued to have bad luck at his bank. The same week as the debit card incident, he went to the bank to deposit a check he had received for a payout from the same book. The bank claimed that the check was bad, and was looking for additional information. Instead the customer checked with the book, found out that the check was indeed good and simply asked the bank to redeposit it. Of course, the check cleared. And of course . . . once it did . . . the player opened an account at another bank.

This player’s story and his particular bank may be an isolated incident, or this case may be the tip of the iceberg. No one can be 100% sure. But this one occurrence should show players at Internet sportsbooks, casinos and poker rooms, that these regulations are making a real impact, implemented or not. Though we believe that the online gaming companies that service U.S. players are always one step ahead of the long arm of U.S. law, you can never be too safe with your money. Players should take care with how they are sending and receiving money and now, more than ever, keep an eye on balances.

If you have had a problem with your bank and the UIGEA regulations, please add your comments below.

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