Gambling law expert Nelson Rose says federal regulators "simply gave up" when confronted with the impossibility of implementing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). After receiving a flood of objections from financial institutions, the Treasury Department will not require them to figure out the difference between legal and illegal online gambling, a distinction Congress deliberately left vague and regulators refuse to clarify. The Bush administration's final regulations under the UIGEA, issued last week, require American credit card companies to invent new codes for certain transactions and require financial institutions to ask their clients to avoid illegal gambling. Otherwise, Rose says, "everyone else can basically continue to do what they are now doing," including American gamblers who use overseas intermediaries to place bets and collect their winnings. Money sent to individual gamblers does not even qualify as a "restricted transaction," Rose notes, and the regulations "now make it clear that payment processors should not waste their time checking on where money is sent by individuals." The government concedes "there are no reasonably practical steps that a U.S. participant [financial institution] could take to prevent their consumer customers from sending restricted transactions cross-border."
I interviewed Rose for my June reason article about the online gambling crackdown. Last week Radley Balko noted that the Bush administration rushed to finish the UIGEA rules before its rule making authority expired, under the guidance of a former lobbyist for the NFL, one of the UIGEA's major backers.