George W. Bush gave his last State of the Union speech Monday evening. His grey hairs certainly show the strain he has been under since taking office seven years ago. The smile he wore most of the evening might be signs of the relief that is in store for him in a year when he finally leaves office. The legacy he leaves those of us interested in internet gaming is the UIGEA. This legislation has alienated the United States from many of our friends overseas. It has robbed us of one of our basic rights, that of being free in a free country to do what we want. We are allowed to travel to Las Vegas, or Atlantic City to gamble, no problem. We can even go to the local churches to play bingo on Friday nights if we wish. But we are not allowed to use the internet for the same purpose. If you are shut in, or can’t afford to travel, or just like to stay home in the safety of your own home, you are not allowed to gamble. I know that technically, UIGEA does not outlaw gambling, but it does make it illegal for any financial institution to process any transactions related to internet gambling.
Bush starts his last year in office with the country on the verge of recession and mounting debt in the trillions, thanks to the war on terrorism. President Bush is going to be trying to salvage his political legacy in this, his last year in office. His biggest problem is that it is very difficult for a lame duck president to wield much influence over congress in his last year in the White House. This is especially true for a President like Bush with his popularity in the gutter.
President Bush stated in his speech: “On trade, we must trust American workers to compete with anyone in the world and empower them by opening up new markets overseas. Today, our economic growth increasingly depends on our ability to sell American goods, crops and services all over the world. These agreements will level the playing field. They will give us better access to nearly 100 million customers.”
If President Bush wants other countries to open up their markets, he needs to open up the United States markets to foreign companies equally. The United States needs to work with other countries to open up the United States market to foreign gaming operators in order to be in better compliance with international law and WTO commitments. While the United States is not bound by international law, our constitution provides that the U.S. Supreme Court is the final law for this great country. This was to prevent exactly what is happening now; foreign countries and their laws influencing law in the United States. The United States need to lift the illegal federal ban on internet gambling financial transactions.
When Harry Truman was President, the Treasury Department put poker games together in the White House. Now Treasury is tasked with trying to enforce UIGEA. State and local governments certainly can use the tax revenue that can be generated by internet gambling being regulated on the state level.
iMEGA, (the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association), has stated that the UIGEA and its proposed regulations establish a dangerous precedent for denying Americans’ First Amendment rights; that it stifles online innovation and commerce; and that it will have an adverse effect on the privacy rights of Internet users. iMEGA has made protecting Americans’ civil liberties in the online world a cornerstone of their activities.
“These proposed regulations will limit Americans’ freedom to use the Internet as they see fit in the privacy of their own homes… While UIGEA is intended to protect minors and problem gamblers, the law ironically makes these groups more vulnerable by targeting US banks and credit card companies, whose identity verification, fraud prevention and credit profiling systems protect online consumers every day.” said Edward Leyden, President of iMEGA
iMEGA has filed suit against the Attorney General’s office in federal court to prevent enforcement of UIGEA. GWB stated in his final State of the Union that: “The people’s trust in their government is undermined by congressional earmarks.”