In the waning days of summer 2006, the recently appointed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and past commissioner Paul Tagliabue wrote Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) in an attempt to sway him to tag the UIGEA onto “must pass” defense spending legislation. Warner told them to go pound salt. But that didn’t slow the NFL down much. After all, they had hired Bill Frist’s former counsel, Marty Gold, as their lobbyist. On September 30, 2006, the “must pass” SAFE Port Act was approved by Congress, with the UIGEA tacked on, courtesy of Bill Frist.
Regulations, however, for the UIGEA have not yet been approved, primarily because there is widespread belief that the UIGEA is unenforceable. As proposed, the onus to enforce the UIGEA falls squarely on the banks. Both the Treasury and Justice Department have admitted that they, themselves, would be unable to determine legal versus illegal online sites under the law – and yet that is precisely what they are requiring the banking system to do. The costs and risks to banks are huge. And with everything facing the banking system today, introducing more cost and more risk to the system seems like a ridiculous prospect. With few UIGEA reg proponents — and major economic catastrophes brewing on the home front – one would think that the UIGEA regs would be a backburner issue at best. But then that’s not how the NFL and Bush administration roll
According to an article in today’s Washington Post, “William Wichterman, who with others at the Covington & Burling law firm earned $2.8 million lobbying for the NFL against Internet gaming and on other matters from 2004 through March, is working on the gambling restrictions in the White House Office of Public Liaison, White House spokesman Dana Perino confirmed yesterday.” But don’t worry, he’s been cleared by the White House’s ethics officers – so it’s totally cool.
And don’t believe a word of the NFL rhetoric that this has anything to do with reducing the risk of cheating in major league sports or that it has anything to do with protecting family or morals. For one thing, internet sports betting is already illegal under the Wire Act. And the Justice Department will tell you the very same thing.
The only reason the NFL wants to see UIGEA regs go into effect is to eliminate any online competition for its lucrative fantasy sports leagues – which of course get a juicy carve out in the UIGEA.
Edit: It looks like the NFL got their holiday wish today…