Two U.K.-based companies are leading a grassroots effort to clarify legislation that would regulate Internet gambling in the United States.
UC Group, which specializes in payment processing, financing and logistics in support of e-commerce, in conjunction with international accountancy firm Baker Tilly, are launching the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative.
The initiative aims to educate the public and garner support for the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act (IGREA), introduced in April by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.
If enacted, the IGREA would license and regulate foreign and domestic online gambling companies as long as they adhere to set regulatory guidelines. Regulation would be overseen by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and companies would be required to pay a fee assessed by the director of FinCEN, as well as pay federal and state income taxes.
Baker Tilly and UC Group are among several companies that had discussions over the years with numerous congressional offices, including Congressman Frank's office, involved in Internet gambling issues.
“It is clear that prohibition in the United States isn’t working for anyone,” UC Group CEO Kobus Paulson told U.K. newspaper the Times in April.
Initiative Spokesman Jeff Sandman of Hyde Park Communications described the initiative as a resource for information about Frank's bill as well as a voice for all parties interested in supporting the legislation.
The initiative's site, safeandsecureig.org, will serve as a center for clarifying some of the misapprehensions surrounding the bill's purpose.
Sandman said one misperception the initiative is anxious to clear up is that the proposed legislation only opens up the market for U.S. companies.
"The bill is totally even-handed," Sandman said. "Wherever a company might be based, it gets the same chances at getting licensed in the United States, so long as they meet the regulations."
The initiative wants to address concerns about safety in relation to Internet gambling, and UC Group not only has systems that pinpoint the age and location of bettors, it has developed technology to detect compulsive gambling and money laundering.
"Clearly two of the leaders of the initiative are in the business of making sure that the financial transactions are both transparent and secure so that consumers are protected, not just in terms of preventing against fraud and money laundering, but also to take care of the concerns that all sides have in terms of protecting against underage gambling and trying to put in place safeguards against compulsive gambling," Sandman said. "So what this (legislation) would do is [establish] a regulatory framework which puts in place protections that don't exist today."
The site, which is expected to launch late this week or early next week, will feature information on key components of the legislation, including links to the legislation and to Frank's question-and-answer sessions, Sandman said. But the primary focus of the site is going to be on both the security and safety of the financial transactions and issues of protecting against underage gambling and compulsive gambling, he added.
"I think that this initiative understands that protecting against underage gambling is an important issue and the safeguards exist to do that," Sandman said. "So, the initiative treats this issue as one of utmost seriousness. It is an important issue and there are clearly means to address that. There are also in place the various technical safeguards that allow that at a level which didn't exist years ago. We also anticipate on the site various schematics demonstrating how these things work."
Baker Tilly and UC Group have hired U.S.-based law firm Alston & Bird to promote the legislation. The firm has contracted Downey McGrath Group to assist with the lobbying efforts.
is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.