Another delay of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act is unlikely after Congressman Barney Frank told PokerNews last week that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner promised Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) he wouldn't hold up the regulations any longer. The pact between Geithner and Kyl, which Kyl leveraged by blocking President Obama's Treasury nominees from being confirmed by the Senate, also was written about by the Washington Post on Saturday.
The Poker Players Alliance, which successfully petitioned for the delay that extended the compliance deadline on UIGEA regulations to June 1, will focus its efforts going forward not on delaying but on refining the final version.
"We're still looking to file another petition, not necessarily for a delay but an exemption of certain activities under the UIGEA," PPA executive director John Pappas said.
The PPA can petition Geithner to clarify what constitutes "unlawful Internet gambling," a move that would be welcomed by the banking industry. Pappas said the PPA will urge for the definition to exclude peer-to-peer games (including poker) and parimutuel animal racing, for poker's friends in the horse- and dog-racing industries. The UIGEA is not supposed to apply to horse racing, but the industry already has experienced some overblocking and is looking to clarify its current exemption.
Here's the catch: "Unless it's something Kyl agreed to, I don't think the Treasury would do it," Pappas said.
So poker needs only to get approval from the Senator who has spent the past 12 years pushing anti-poker legislation and recently threw a political tantrum to get his way with the Treasury.
"It's certainly an uphill battle," Pappas said. "It's an uphill battle regardless of his position. But I don't think the PPA can just throw in the towel. We've been engaged in discussions with Kyl for a long time. (PPA) Chairman (Alfonse) D'Amato is a good friend of Kyl, and we've made some progress. I'm not making any promises."
To strengthen its position with the Treasury, the PPA is hoping to get Frank to push for a hearing in the House Financial Services Committee on the UIGEA regulations. The hearing would be separate from the markup of the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act, which Frank said he will probably hold in May.
"The hearing would be to expose why it's a bad idea to let these regulations go into effect," Pappas said. "While I don't know if it would do enough to influence the Treasury, it certainly will continue to expose the underlining problems with this attempt at prohibition and strengthen the argument for regulation. The hearing would be an opportunity for Frank and others to ask regulators what they think will be the impact of the law once it's finalized."
It's unclear whether Frank is interested in fighting the UIGEA regulations further. Frank told PokerNews last week that he thought UIGEA regulations going into effect would help create support to repeal the bill. The PPA spoke Thursday to a congressional aide of Frank regarding his quotes to PokerNews but had not spoken directly to Frank since the comments were made.
"We hope Barney hasn't given into the idea of a hold and is not willing to push for some incremental change of the UIGEA between now and June 1," Pappas said. "That is still left to be determined."
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