UIGEA regulations keep my money off PokerStars, but nowhere else

1 June 2010
The regulations for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) went into effect today. The law was designed to prevent U.S. citizens from playing poker and casino games or making sports bets on the Internet by requiring banks and financial institutions to block player deposits to Internet gambling businesses. It took nearly four years from the time the law passed for the regulations to go into effect. Gaming law expert I. Nelson Rose has called June 1, 2010 the "Y2K of Internet gambling," meaning that there's a lot of hype surrounding it, but not much will actually happen.
Even backers of the UIGEA admit that it would be nearly impossible to stop Internet gambling sites which operate outside of the U.S. from allowing Americans to gamble online. So lawmakers crafted the legislation to put the onus on American financial institutions instead of foreign companies (which they don't have jurisdiction over) or American players, who they know they can't practically prevent from gambling online.
It isn't working, or at least it's not working well. This morning, I made a deposit at Full Tilt Poker using their "Instant eCheck" option. Then I played a few hands of Pot Limit Omaha, won $3.07, and requested a cash out via check. It all took less than 20 minutes.
And it isn't just Full Tilt that has been able to get around the UIGEA regulations. After jumping through a few hoops I was able to set up a new account and deposit at Doyles Room, a site on the Cake Poker Network, using a Visa card. At Victory Poker, where I also set up a new account, I was told that a deposit would clear in 24 hours and I'd have access to the funds to play at the room on the Everleaf Poker Network tomorrow.
"The Poker Players Alliance has been speculating for the last couple of months that the June 1st deadline would be more like a bump in the road rather than a catastrophic event for Internet poker," said John Pappas, Chairman of the PPA. "I think that your experience today is telling. However, it is also the first day of enforcement. I can only hope that players can continue with such ease to make deposits."
That being said, regulations did appear to have an effect on my ability to deposit money at PokerStars, the largest Internet poker room in the world. I could not complete an Instant eCheck or Visa deposit at PokerStars, and I have used both deposit methods at the site in the past.
I asked PokerStars customer service by e-mail why my deposits had been declined, and I was informed that my bank was blocking my deposit attempts. He said that in order to make a deposit, I should try from another bank account, or I should send money via Western Union.
The curious part of the equation is that I was able to make deposits on other sites using the exact same methods. It appears that PokerStars has been singled out by my bank and credit card because they are the market leader.
"I don't know what the situation is with PokerStars at this time, but obviously I think that players benefit when the largest, most regulated and highly-reputable sites are able to process their deposits," said Pappas. "One of the fears of the UIGEA from the poker playing community is that those sites who want to do things the right way and within the letter of the law will be pushed further underground."
So based on my here are my options.
  1. Play at any number of sites that are able to process transactions from my financial institution.

  2. Play at PokerStars, assuming I'm able to find a financial institution that allows me move my money there, or make a deposit via Western Union and have to eat some fees.
Either way, the UIGEA has failed and will continue to fail. I can still play poker on the Internet, I can still move money to and from my Internet poker accounts (though it may take a little more effort), and so can most of the rest of the Internet poker players in the United States.
"Congress has tried to go the prohibition route, and millions of Americans continue to play online," said Pappas, who says he will continue to advocate for legislation regulating the industry that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) have sponsored that would regulate the industry. "There are all the political and policy arguments to be made, but I think they'll be amplified because the UIGEA is going to be proven ineffective."
Ineffective and costly, as banks are deputized to monitor our transactions and deem which are legal and which are not (and judging by their performance on day one, it's a job they're not well-equipped for). And costly to the federal and state coffers, too, as tax revenues that could be produced by an industry begging for regulation fail to materialize.

Aaron Todd

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Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.