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UIGEA enforcement mechanisms are flawed, says Shelley Berkely in political assessment
Shelley Berkely, the feisty Nevada Democrat who supports properly regulated and controlled online gambling in the United States, came out strongly against the recently implemented Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act this week in a major feature article in the Washington DC political publication Roll Call.
Berklely says that Nevada is famous for its skill and experience in effective gambling regulations, and for keeping pace with technological and other dynamics impacting the gambling industry. The state is expert at turning these to best advantage to ensure that enforcement is effective, and that players are assured of getting a fair bet, the house is protected against cheating and money laundering and other crimes are controlled.
She points out however, that the current prohibitionary approach to Internet gambling in the United States has resulted in an environment where instead of being protected by regulations designed to prevent rip-offs, fraud and identity theft, Americans are being left vulnerable as a result of the moralistic UIGEA.
“This failed legislation sought to pin a cyber “tin star” to the chest of the financial industry with the idea that these companies would become the new “virtual sheriff” in town and that together, they would prevent anyone under U.S. law from taking part in any illegal online gaming,” Berkely writes.
“In reality, countless Americans logged on to their computers June 1 — the day the act took effect — and placed bets over the Internet. In the time it takes to read this sentence, thousands of players from Alaska to Hawaii and across the rest of the U.S. will have participated in some form of online wagering. And these men and women will keep right on playing, knowing that the law doesn’t even make clear what is illegal gambling and what is not when it comes to the Internet.”
Berkely goes on to compare the bans on internet gambling financial transactions with American failed historical attempts to prohibit the consumption and trading of alcohol, saying that the law actually helps the bad guys instead of protecting Americans against criminals.
She asserts that prohibition as a policy is doomed to fail and it’s time to start over.
“I firmly believe adults have the right to choose how they spend their leisure time and money, and that includes the ability to participate in Internet gaming from the privacy of their own homes and computers,” Berkely continues.
“That is why I vehemently opposed the UIGEA when it came before Congress and why I continue to support the efforts of House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) — and others — to replace what would be better called the Unworkable Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.”
Berkely points to what she refers to as the “fatally flawed enforcement mechanism” of the UIGEA, which places the burden of deciding which transactions are illegal on the shoulders of an inexperienced and overworked financial services industry. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the Act is imprecise and does not clearly define what is regarded as an illegal gambling transaction – something financial institutions have been cautioning the government on for some time.
And she stresses there was never a penalty intended against those placing the bet, only against the banks now tasked with policing customers to stop any and all cyberbets.
Berkely suggests that the way forward is to tap into the expertise developed by Nevada’s world-class gaming regulators, and those in other states, which would enable the development of a new framework that would give adults the right to choose for themselves to visit a virtual casino or play in an online poker game with competitors drawn from around the planet.
“Every day the U.S. fails to act, we are also missing out on new business opportunities that could flow to legally authorized American operators of regulated Internet gaming ventures,” she warns.
“In addition, technology has dramatically improved identity verification and enhanced other protections designed to prevent those who are underage from doing on the Internet what they could not do in person during a visit to any resort casino on the Las Vegas Strip,” she adds.
“It’s time to let the UIGEA ride off into the sunset and to replace the virtual Wild, Wild West it has created with workable regulations designed to protect American adults — in numbers that only continue to grow — when they choose to place a bet over the Internet.”
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