Online Slots and the UIGEA
The relationship between online slots and the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) can often cause confusion among even veteran gamblers. In this article, it’s my goal to clear up some of the uncertainly surrounding the issue, allowing both novices and old pros to play their slots of choice without worrying about possible legal implications.
How the UIGEA Came About
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 13th, 2006. It had been introduced nearly a year earlier by Rep. James Leach, and at the time it was known as the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act.
On the last day before Congress broke for the 2006 midterm elections, they approved the SAFE Port Act, a bill intended to improve the security of U.S. harbors. The UIGEA was tacked on to this otherwise unrelated piece of legislation and more than one politician has stated that the final language of the document was never seen before being voted on.
Important Provisions of the UIGEA
Like most documents of this type, the UIGEA is filled with plenty of confusing language and terminology designed to induce headaches in those unfamiliar with the law. In order to simplify matters, this section isolates and explains some of the bill’s most important provisions.
- The ultimate target of the law isn’t the players or the payment processors, but rather the online casinos. Those who are found guilty can receive a fine, up to five years in prison, and be banned from the gaming industry.
- The main purpose of the act is to prohibit gambling businesses from knowingly accepting money transfers for the purposes of illegal online gaming. This includes checks, electronic fund transfers, and credit cards.
- Certain payment systems (such as the banks that issue credit cards) are required to have systems in place to safeguard and prevent restricted transactions as defined by the UIGEA.
- The UIGEA cannot be used to expand existing forms of gambling or change other laws or Indian compacts.
- Fantasy sports are excluded from the act, as well as tribal and legal intrastate gambling. The legal status of state lotteries and multi-state gambling on horse racing is never expressly mentioned.
- Using the federal court, the United States can seek injunctions and restraining orders to prevent an entity from performing restricted transactions.
- If a site is found to be transferring money for the purposes of illegal gambling, its Internet service provider can be ordered to remove links to the site and/or shut down the URL.
What the UIGEA Means to You
The passage of the UIGEA led several major gaming sites to vacate the U.S. market, and numerous payment processors no longer accept transactions for the purpose of online wagering. Besides these two results, however, the law has had little impact on those who play virtual slots or other casino games.
The act was never intended to target the individual player, and it’s not a federal crime for private citizens to gamble online (although it may be illegal in certain states). I suggest leaving these headaches to the folks who manage the online casinos, while you head onto the Internet and find a quality establishment that still accepts American customers.
Besides the reduced number of online gaming options, the other major hassle caused by the UIGEA is depositing and withdrawing money from the casino. This can still be accomplished, although it’s no longer as simple as typing in the account number for your VISA or MasterCard.
The easiest way to deposit money is to have it wired via Western Union or some similar service, while casinos often prefer that withdrawals are handled via check. All these methods still result in actual money landing in your bank account, so the minor added inconvenience is worth putting up with.
In closing, just remember the following: the UIGEA did not make it illegal to play online slots or any other game. You’re free to sign up with any casino that accepts you, and you’re welcome to send or receive money via any willing payment processor. All you really need to worry about is getting the right symbols in order to qualify for a progressive jackpot.