The History Of UIGEA

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act or (UIGEA) was passed by Congress in 2006 much to the chagrin of the online gambling industry. Many online casino executives took the act so seriously it restricted players from the United States without even reading the statute to abide by the law. The history of the law is tremendously short due to the fairly new concept of internet gambling.

Since 1998, Congress has attempted to pass anti-online gambling legislation. These efforts continued to fail due to the hurdles surrounding the law-making process in the United States. Each year the bill was presented it was held up because of lobby groups each having their hand out. The result of this interference was Congress running out of time before the bill could be presented.

In 2006 the Republican Congress was fighting to segregate themselves from connections to online gambling lobbyist Jack Abramhoff who was surrounded by corruption and scandal. As a result, the party created the American Values Agenda which prohibited online gaming. The Agenda was led by Representatives Bob Goodlatte and Jim Leach.

They believed online gambling was removing billions of dollars from the American economy. Also, they stated online gaming was highly prone to fraud, national security, money laundering, and various forms of theft. These angles attempted to deter Americans from participating in the activity.

Despite their claims, polls revealed American’s felt online gaming was a personal choice. In 2006, the Conservative Congress flipped to a Democratic Government. Despite this defeat, Republicans cleverly attached the UIGEA bill to a Homeland Security bill just before the power shift. Therefore, the bill was passed and online gambling was no longer legal in the United States.

The entire political environment in 2006 favored anti-gaming legislation in both Houses. In the summer of 2006 two bills were introduced by the House:

  • The Leach Bill
  • Goodlatte Bill

The Leach Bill attempted to halt electronic fund transfers to online casinos. The Goodlatte Bill expanded the scope of the Wire Act to include online casinos and poker rooms. This came about through a change in the terminology of the business of betting. The House eventually collaborated on a single bill that combined aspects from both bills.
The UIGEA is a tremendously important piece of legislation for the United States. Although the potential for reversal is always on the mind of gaming enthusiasts, this may never become a reality due to the strict guidelines set forth by this act.