With 2009 entering its last quarter, reports are surfacing that some US banks are already starting to gear up for the implementation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act regulations on December 1st.
Even at this early stage, the reports indicate an unfamiliarity with the law, which many have previously criticised has imprecise, that may lead to banks being overly zealous in blocking financial transactions with gambling companies. Earlier this year at least two state lotteries - exempt from federal anti-gambling laws - complained about banks imposing blocks that were not justified on certain transactions.
Poker News Daily reports that Nevada State Bank recently mailed customers advising: "In compliance with the U.S. Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, we are required to notify you that you are prohibited from processing transactions derived from Internet bets or wagers where such bet or wager is unlawful under any applicable Federal or State law."
PND correctly points out that it is debatable whether any federal law makes the playing of Internet poker illegal - an issue that legislators and enforcers have shown a reluctance to address in court. It also questions the wording, emphasising that the UIGEA applies only to deposits sent to Internet gambling sites, not to withdrawals made from the site to a bank.
California Bank & Trust appeared to similarly confused, advising customers that it "will not process transactions derived from Internet bets or wagers." More can be expected, given that the banks both belong to the Zions Bancorporation, a holding company based in Salt Lake City that oversees eight banks in eight states: Nevada, California, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Utah.
"The problem is that banks will have every right to overblock to make sure they comply with the UIGEA," PND accurately observes - the UIGEA gives them an out in cases of erroneous blocks.
Time is running out for the best immediate hope of fighting the UIGEA and eventually relegating it to the scrapheap - Barney Frank's Reasonable Prudence in Regulation Act seeking to postpone the implementation of UIGEA by a year to allow his HR2267 proposal to regulate and license online gambling in the United States to be debated.
The "Reasonable Prudence" bill has yet to exit Frank's House Financial Services Committee although it has already attracted 34 co-sponsors.