C-Day is upon us, the much-delayed, dreaded and perhaps overblown compliance date for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
UIGEA regulations are in full effect, yet the Internet poker sites don't appear to be a dry, post-apocalyptic wasteland. As this sentence is typed, 41,356 are playing cash games on PokerStars and another 17,532 are on Full Tilt Poker, according to the online poker traffic site PokerScout.com.
"I've been saying for quite some time now that the expectation is this date and enforcement will merely be a blip or bump in the road for poker players, not a catastrophic event that will shut down Internet poker in the U.S.," said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance. "I think there's always going to be responsible channels that people can use to deposit. It should not affect ACH (Automated Clearing House) deposits or deposits outside the credit system. It also should not affect people getting money off a site."
The PPA never did hear back from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke on its petition to clarify the UIGEA to exempt peer-to-peer games such as poker. In this case, no news is bad news.
"We have not received any notification that our exemption petition was granted but also didn't get any notification that it had been declined," Pappas said."ìI suppose they could still grant the petition after the law goes into effect, but that would be highly unlikely. We expect most banks are complying fully with regulations. Nevertheless, we hear from a number of folks today that they are continuing to make deposits."
What effect UIGEA enforcement does have will be seen over the next couple of weeks. Players may have to be patient with their deposits and withdrawals while the aftermath is sorted out. The PPA would like to know of any problems its members face, particularly issues with withdrawals, as it's clearly written in the regulations that they should not impact people taking money off sites. Any issues can be brought to the PPA's attention by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or filling out the contact form on the PPA's website.
With the UIGEA officially in place, the PPA will focus its efforts on making the regulations irrelevant by pushing for licensing and regulation in Congress, an effort Pappas believes will be helped by the ineffectiveness shown by the UIGEA to stop Americans from participating in the country's long tradition of playing poker.
"Our efforts have always been on two tracks, to see what we can do to neuter and delay the UIGEA, which we have successfully done over the past four years, and to seek and achieve licensing and regulation of Internet poker," Pappas said. "The next step will be Barney Frank's markup (of his Internet gambling licensing and regulation bill in the House Financial Services Committee), which he has committed to sometime in July. We're focusing on that and making sure we have the best-possible outcome for that vote."
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