The Safe Port Act and the Tax Relief Bill: An Ironic Commonality

When the Safe Port Act Bill came to a vote, another bill was added at the eleventh hour: The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). The UIGEA Bill was so poorly written that its ambiguity lead to mass confusion by banks and other entities to properly enforce it. Nonetheless, the Safe Port Act was passed as was the UIGEA Act. Thus, it wasn’t until June 1, 2010 that the UIGEA went into full effect. Congressman Barney Frank has, for the last several years, tried to repeal the UIGEA Law and came up with another bill that would not only legalize Online Gambling , but provide clear guidelines for its enforcement.

Enter the Tax Relief Deal

As you may have heard, President Obama and the leaders of the Republican Party met to seal a deal that would extend the Bush Tax Cuts for another two years. Known as the Tax Relief Bill, it would extend unemployment benefits to more than 2 million people and, according to some economists, allow for the an additional stimulus to boost the economy and create more jobs. Although this Tax Deal has been fundamentally dismissed by the House due to the many tax cuts for the top 2%, the Senate is going to implement a test vote on Monday, December 13 to vote for this bill.

Online Poker Legislation

The Majority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, decided to add another piece of legislation to the Tax Relief bill that would legalize online poker. This, in an attempt to pay back two giant casinos that supported his re-election bid as Senator. Even though the Senate will vote on the Tax Relief deal on Monday, December 13, it is highly unlikely that the Republicans will accept this add-on bill since they vehemently oppose online gambling legislation. The House, on the other hand, completely rejected the Tax Deal and is now working to improve it. Even if the Senate approves the Tax Deal as presented by the President and the Republican leaders, the House is certain to reject it. So what happens to the Online Poker Legislation? It is dead in the water.

The Irony

Isn’t it interesting that the UIGEA Law was added to the Safe Port Act to ensure that online gambling would be deemed illegal, and now the Poker Legislation is being added to the Tax Relief bill to ensure that at least one form of online gambling becomes legal? Oh, the irony! To add to this drama, the New Jersey State Assembly is about to vote next week to pass a bill that would legalize online gambling – the first state in the US to do so. What impact will this have on Barney Frank’s bill to repeal the UIGEA Law and the subsequent enactment of a new online gambling law remains to be seen.

If It Looks Like a Duck, and Walks Like a Duck…..

Thus, we have a lame duck House of Representatives whose majority will change on January 1, and we have a Senate who needs at least 60 votes to pass any form of new legislation – and that includes the Tax Relief Bill. If all this seems like a psycho-drama, it is; more psycho than drama. The race is on. Will the Senate vote to pass the Tax Relief Bill that includes the legalization of online poker? Will the House approve the Senate’s bill? Will Barney Frank prevail after January 1? Next week will reveal at least some of the answers to these questions. Stay tuned…..