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Top Bankers Warn on UIGEA
4/23/10 - An article on internet gambling prepared by the Medill News Service (a Washington program of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University) was widely published by US mainstream media this week.
The article gave a balanced perspective on the status quo of the various efforts underway to legalise online gambling in the United States, and pointed to the looming deadline for the June 1st implementation of the UIGEA regulations, which enjoin US financial institutions to enforce a law that has been widely criticised for its lack of precision.
Under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, the banking industry will be responsible for policing Americans trying to play poker or place wagers online. The act requires banks to monitor credit card transactions to ensure that none are going to offshore gambling websites.
The article revisits the difficulties faced by American bankers in fulfilling this difficult duty, forced upon them by federal legislators in a much criticised law.
The vice-president of the American Bankers Association told the Medill reporter that the impending implementation of the UIGEA will not prevent transactions to online casinos. He opined that what this attempt at banning online gambling financial transactions will achieve is higher costs and uncertain rulings.
The banks are confident they can enforce the law, but say it will take time to implement changes, and that some transactions will inevitably slip through the cracks.
Kenneally said that there would be no way for banks to stop people from writing a check or making a wire payment to an Internet gambling site.
He asserted that banks can easily prevent credit and debit card payments, provided the online casinos are labeled as such. What he did not address was the problem of overzealous implementation by the banks, and the real possibility that some offshore internet gambling operators may resort to subterfuge to get around the regulations, indicators that what is really required is effective legalisation and regulation.
Kenneally said banks will incur extra costs associated with the new responsibilities, and that ambiguities in the law make determining what is actually an "unlawful transaction" challenging.
"We're just telling all of our bankers to be prepared on June 1," Kenneally said.
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