UIGEA Overview

What is the UIGEA and how did it come into law? What does it mean for US online poker players? You have found the right page if you are looking at the answers to such questions.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 is anti-gambling legislation that greatly impacted the online poker industry. This law on internet gambling primarily addresses the issue of funding internet gambling sites with the aim of preventing these sites from accepting bets from US residents in states in which internet gambling was illegal.

In the United States, online gambling became more difficult since the UIGEA came into effect since the bill prohibits American banks and financial institutions from facilitating online gambling transactions carried out on US-facing gambling sites.

So how did the UIGEA get through? In 2006, the House passed a bill that was tacked onto the SAFE Port Act at the very last minute when it was signed by President George Bush.

In order to ensure the Bill cleared the Senate they had to remove more controversial portions of its proposed regulations that would specifically expand the Wire Act to include prohibitions on online poker rooms and online casinos. By removing these portions of the Bill, and by attaching it to homeland security legislation, the UIGEA became impossible to oppose and The ACT was passed by both houses of Congress.

As a result of this gambling legislation many of the biggest online poker operators including PacificPoker.com and PartyPoker.Com were forced out of the US market although continued to operate in other regulated markets.

How did the UIGEA affect poker players in America?

The UIGEA bill that was passed was rushed through the Congress without hearings, or without even being proof-read. It also didn’t go into any great detail in relation to what games were considered “games of chance” under the act.

Some operators and many others in the poker industry holding the view that online poker was a skill game, and because of this, the UIGEA had no relevance. Since the legality of online poker was a bit of a grey area and it wasn’t clear whether online poker was illegal, following the passage of the UIGEA, a small group of sites made the decision to remain open for business and offered their online poker games to players from the United States.

These online poker sites that stayed benefited immensely from the major operators that left the US market immediately after the UIGEA went into full effect. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, due to having well polished software clients and due to aggressive marketing campaigns had quickly become the leading poker sites for players in the US and continued to grow over the next 5 or so years.

What’s happened post-UIGEA?

Post-UIGEA the online poker landscape didn’t change much at all. There are still plenty of places for playing online poker if you are from the US. The biggest inconvenience was that it became more difficult to deposit money into online poker sites to be able to play the games.

But even though the UIEGA act made it tougher to deposit money into online poker sites, there are still a wide variety of US-friendly deposit options to choose from. All the US-facing poker sites still accept credit/debit cards for deposits but it can be a bit hit and miss as to whether your card will work.

If it doesn’t work there will be other deposit methods that make funding your poker account possible, such as sending the poker site a direct bank transfer or check. Unfortunately, although e-wallets such as Neteller and Skrill were a very convenient method for putting money into online poker sites, these payment options are no longer available for players from the United States.

The UIGEA was somewhat of a setback on online poker in the US, but it didn’t change the situation drastically, as players could still find a way to deposit and play. A much bigger setback for online poker in the United States was Black Friday on April 15, 2011.

Are there any specific laws that prohibit players from playing online poker?

Although the UIGEA bill covers banks, financial institutions, and gambling site operators – several U.S. states specifically prohibit their residents from playing online poker, and it’s up to players to know what their rights are when it comes to online poker.

Some states make it a crime to play real money poker online and that includes residents in Washington, New York, Maryland, Missouri, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Utah. Because of this, even the US-friendly poker sites won’t accept registrations from players in these blocked states. On the other hand, other U.S. states have gone the way of legalizing online poker and have a regulate framework for offering the game, include Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.