Frank’s Plan: Play It Straight to Repeal the UIGEA

by , Apr 10, 2009 | 11:31 am

The April 9th edition of The Poker Beat included a discussion about the possibility of poker legislation that would repeal the UIGEA, allowing companies like PartyPoker back into the U.S. Dan (the Wolfman?) made some solid arguments, but when he mentioned that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has the know-how to slyly attach pro-gaming legislation to another sure-thing bill to get it passed, he may not have been aware that Frank has declared his intent to complete the mission of repealing the UIGEA not with political trickery but rather a stand-alone bill.

In a conversation with The Hill, Frank said that attaching his bill to other legislation — as was done with the UIGEA — would be “inappropriate.”

“I want to do this with hearings, discussions, and votes,” he said.

While Frank’s desire to handle it on the House floor as opposed to in the back hallways is being praised by some, others see it as dangerous to the bill, as an intense focus/debate on it could make it more difficult to pass.

Let’s think about this for a moment. Frank has been on UIGEA-tilt since 2006, as was evident by his introduction of H.R. 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act (IGREA), in April of 2007. He has likely been calculating the best way to repeal the UIGEA after fighting against it since its passage, and his decision to reintroduce H.R. 2046 as a standalone was not made lightly. Could he have some Republican aces up his sleeve? Does the recently-quiet PPA have a master plan to garner support for the bill? All of this remains to be seen, but methinks Frank would not have been so vocal – to mainstream media nonetheless – since January of his intention to repeal the UIGEA if he did not have a solid plan with which to proceed … which at this point, he is saying begins after Congress returns from their Easter break on April 20th.

19 Comments to “Frank’s Plan: Play It Straight to Repeal the UIGEA”

  1. Glen Harness

    For the poker fans who’s only issue is getting online poker legalized in the US, be careful who you get in bed with.

  2. DanM

    Couldn’t the same be said for the NFL, which is leading the special-interest opposition?

    I for one am happy that we have a senior banking-regulator guy at the helm, who knows that because of far bigger issues, the spotlight will be on every move he makes.

  3. DanM

    Oh, and thanks Jen, for clarifying. My knowledge I was spewing yesterday came from about February … which though still was more recent than BJ’s May 2008 arsenal, hardly keeps up with the pace at which things are developing in the Beltway.

  4. California Jen

    Glen, most of us in the poker community do have other interests – politically and otherwise, but this issue is rather important to us and our livelihoods. And personally, I like Frank and have a lot of respect for him with regards to most issues and the way he handles his business.

    Dan, it’s tough to keep up with this stuff when so many in the poker industry aren’t even covering it and when there is so much time that lapses between poker legislation. But at least you’re keeping up with the poker/porn connections. ( 😉

  5. Mean Gene

    Here’s the problem, as I see it:

    I can’t imagine a single Republican in the House voting for this bill. The Republican leadership has come out en masse and said they want Obama to fail. They want the country to slip into chaos, they want despair, misery, hardship on an historic level, because that’s their best chance to get back into power. They presented a “budget” that contained no numbers, which shows just how interested they are in addressing this economic crisis.

    Let’s also remember that Obama went to the Hill to sell his economic stimulus plan–and not a single Republican in the House voted for it. How likely is it that a Republican Congressperson will vote for a bill introduced by BARNEY FRANK? Especially a bill that reverses a Republican legislative triumph (the UIGEA), that legalizes online gaming (still a hot-button issue for cultural conservatives) and that restores rights to American citizens? That’s three strikes right there.

    There is of course a PR aspect to having hearings about this bill (and I don’t think Frank has ever been accused of being allergic to cameras). But there’s no point in trying to woo Republicans–the focus should strictly be on cracking the whip among Democrats. Many of whom voted for the UIGEA and aren’t exactly online gaming enthusiasts. A good strategy to lure/browbeat them would be to focus on the money that could stream into Federal coffers in these troubled times (and ignore the whole skill vs. chance debate that’s completely irrelevant). It might be an easier sell for waffling Democrats if they can say they voted for a bill that will bring in $52 billion over ten years.

    To be blunt, I’m more interested in how ruthlessly Frank can twist Democratic arms than in his ardor at rehashing the same “poker is a game of skill” argument. Turn on CNN or Fox and you quickly find that our political masters oft find concepts such as “reason” and “intelligence” bothersome. It hurts their heads and makes them cross. But they can be motivated by fear and greed, and I think those are the tools Frank could use to best effect.

    And if the only way to pass this law is to tack it onto another bill at the last second without letting anyone read it or debate it, that’s fine with me. Once upon a time I was an idealist, I thought that just because the other guys game the system you should do the honorable thing and play by the rules. Yeah, fuck that, I’m no longer so naive and childish. It’s a dirty business and if the other guys are willing to wallow in the mud and you aren’t, you ain’t the right guy for the job. If what Frist did was legislatively legal, then I could care less if Frank gets this passed by slipping it into a pay raise for Marines or stem-cell research or aid to Kurdistan. I want Frank telling his fellow Democrats that if they cross him and vote against his bill they’re gonna be fucked and they’re gonna stay fucked. That’s where the million-strong PPA could lumber into view and maybe scare the shit out of the odd Democrat with cold feet.

    Results. Get the law passed, by hook or by crook. Don’t bore me with a thrilling tale of how you made the sausage. Just put it on the plate when you’re done.

  6. DanM

    ***the focus should strictly be on cracking the whip among Democrats. Many of whom voted for the UIGEA and aren’t exactly online gaming enthusiasts.***

    actually, i’m pretty sure Frank himself voted for the Port Security Act. but that’s the thing … all his actions now aren’t even about the details in the bills he’s working on, they’re about what kinda politician he presents himself as.

    after all, he bears a fair amount of culpability for the banking collapse. so he has other reasons for showing that everything he is doing is not “politics as usual.”

    at the same time, politics is still politics, so that’s not to say that a “stand alone” bill wouldn’t be wrapped into something else as it moves its way through congress. after all, there clearly will be stuff about online financial transactions in all sorts of banking stuff going on in 2009 … so it wouldn’t necessarily be “sneaky” to go that route.

  7. Mean Gene

    I should’ve said that some Democrats support the UIGEA, not that they voted for it. Of course just about everyone voted for the UIGEA, as it was attached to the SAFE Port act and passed 409-2. Wonder who voted against it…

    I can appreciate the idea of presenting the bill to the Congress and the American people for open debate and discussion, in contrast to what Frist did. Passing it that way makes Frank seem far more effective, it’d be a bigger PR coup for the House leadership, they’d be able to say that they did it the “right” way, that they didn’t have to stoop to Frist’s tactics. That said, the bottom line is the bottom line, getting the bill passed.

  8. BJ Nemeth

    Dan, is this the bill that you think is going to clear both the House and the Senate? (Allowing for the normal revisions between the two houses, of course.) I just don’t see it happening.

    Barney Frank’s bill currently has 48 co-sponsors, who represent 11% of the House of Representatives — or, more importantly, 22% of the number of votes he’ll need (218) to ensure passage through the House. Of course, it would still have to make it through the Senate, and I haven’t heard a single Senator express any interest on this issue.

    While it’s honorable for Frank to introduce the bill on its own, it’s a longshot strategy. Optimists would claim that once our opponents see the evidence of skill and the potential revenue, they’ll be swayed; but these people are more susceptible to a single story of a 16-year-old kid who maxed out Daddy’s credit cards. I look forward to open debates on the topic so we can see all the cards on the table, but I don’t like our chances based on the people that we have to convince to switch sides.

    Anyone have a link that shows any Senate support at all for this bill? (Or one like it?) I found a few links that mistakenly count Ron Paul as a Senator, but that doesn’t count since he’s, you know, not actually in the Senate. (Ron Paul is a representative, and one of the co-sponsors of Frank’s bill.)

    Keep in mind that it was Senators Bill Frist and Jon Kyl that got the UIGEA fast-tracked into law in the first place, and Senators have a hell of a lot more weight and influence than Representatives. Do we have any Senators who are openly and passionately on our side?

  9. Kevin Mathers

    Robert Menendez (D-NJ) did introduce some legislation last session (S 3616) regarding legalizing Internet skill games.

    I’m sure Kyl alone can get this legislation killed, as any Senator can hold up a piece of legislation. The only way I see any bill of Frank’s getting passed is burying the bill in some must-pass legislation.

  10. DanM

    ***Of course, it would still have to make it through the Senate, and I haven’t heard a single Senator express any interest on this issue.***

    This is a good point. I see this (theoretical) bill having no problem getting through the House. And I could see it not even being defeated in the Senate, but never getting to a vote.

    But this is where I think you all are underestimating the influence of key democrats (and Republicans) and the necessity to compromise. It could go either way … for the Republican minority to get something that they want in to a bigger banking bill, they might have to say, fine, we’ll let you have your stupid IGREA then.

    Or it could go the other way … for the Dems to get their way on something bigger and more important, they may have to agree to drop their IGREA screams.

    Though you know what the reality will probably be — I hope not, but won’t be surprised — is for something like Shelley Berkeley’s old bill to be what gets through … something that says let’s study this for a few years, and in the meantime, the Full Tilt’s, PokerStars’, and UBs can operate as they have been.

  11. DanM

    BJ, I just re-listened to the show (or at least our segment), and I now see that indeed, you were saying the same thing as the dude in the WP story … that the stock price responded to the REMOVAL of uncertainty. So I guess we are closer to agreement than my desire just to fight for fun’s sake allowed me to realize. I’ll call our latest debate a win for you draw.

    I still think I’m closer on the timeline than you are, but I only feel about 65 percent certain of that.

  12. Henri

    I miss the old days, I hope you guys get this figured out over there 😉

  13. Kevin Mathers

    You may want to revise that estimate Dan:

  14. d3wayne

    I think it’s noble that Frank wants the bill to be stand alone. Unlike the UIGEA . It was passed as a tag along to another bill. that was a sleazy way to do it. But it may be a harder way to go.

  15. pokerpolitics

    Odd to see Frank finding himself on the correct side of an issue. Is any person more responsible for the economic crisis? Tough to say, but I do commend him for stumbling onto the side of right for once. I guess he will soon be back to promoting egalitarianism and proposing and supporting policies that are systematically destroying the dollar. I mean god forbid anyone oppose that piece of insanity Obama calls a budget.

    Some of Franks greatest hits are contained in that video along with some priceless statements from wannabe oil executive Maxine Waters. But I guess I can overlook the fact that by blocking that regulation on Fannie and Freddie Frank and his cohorts destroyed more wealth than any other collection of people in modern times just because he supports an on-line gambling bill.

  16. DanM

    ***You may want to revise that estimate Dan:***

    You’re referring to the Berkeley bill, or lack thereof? Sweet!

  17. DanM

    ***Is any person more responsible for the economic crisis?***

    C’mon, PP, you’ve been watching too much Bill O’Reilly. While Frank is hardly fault-free, to pin the whole thing on him is ludicrous. No one man in Congress has that much power … after all, others have to vote with him on whatever he does.

    Besides, we have Ron Paul on our side, too. That wide spectrum says something about the rightness of it all. I can’t think of one person who has looked at the issue closely and supported the UIGEA without a strong moral attachment to it.

    This may be our special interest … but we are definitely on the right side of the issue.

  18. pokerpolitics

    I didn’t pin the whole thing….. I said that you could make a case that he is more responsible than any one individual.

    Of course Ron Paul is with you on this, its an issue that is paramount to individual rights. Frank being on the right side of this is akin to a drunk collapsing onto a mattress after a heavy night of drinking, the guy has literally been wrong on everything else so its nice to see him finally land in fair territory.

  19. Mike from Indy

    Frank wants to turn the U.S. into a socialist country, and yet, people still praise him.

    There are two types of people in this world…the givers and the takers. One day, the givers are going to get so fed up, they will only be takers. Look at California for example. Bankrupt!

    Where do you rate yourself?