Recently, the National Football League (NFL) enlisted the services of Jeff Miller, who will serve as its chief lobbyist on Capitol Hill. According to an article authored by the Associated Press, Miller seeks to preserve the ban on internet gambling in the United States.
In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was ushered through Congress at the last minute by former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). Although the UIGEA did not define what was legal and illegal under its jurisdiction, its effect was driving some of the world’s largest online poker sites out of the U.S. market. Now, only a handful of rooms, such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate Bet, and Carbon Poker, accept U.S. residents. In addition, the UIGEA also eradicated payment processors such as Neteller and Citadel Commerce from the market.
On January 19th, the regulations of the UIGEA finally came to fruition as “midnight rules” passed by the outgoing Bush Administration. Many in the internet gambling industry questioned the role of Special Assistant to George W. Bush William Wichterman, who had also served as an NFL lobbyist. Whether the urging of Wichterman resulted in the UIGEA’s regulations being pushed through remains unknown. However, his involvement prompted a letter by Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN).
The NFL’s newest hire, Miller told the Associated Press, “I’m a lifelong NFL fan, grew up in Wisconsin, [and] rooted for the Packers at my father’s knee every Sunday. I had had opportunities in the past to leave the Hill and do other things, such as work at a law firm and lobby firm. But when the NFL calls, you can’t turn that down.” When asked about the upholding the existing internet gambling legislation, which consists of both the UIGEA and Wire Act of 1961, Miller responded, “We want to maintain the integrity of the game, and gambling threatens that.”
The Associated Press article added that Miller will be at the forefront of sports leagues’ efforts to preserve the status quo with regards to internet gambling. Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) has led the effort to overturn the UIGEA, or at least clarify it for the benefit of the financial services industry. HR 6870, the second version of the Payments System Protection Act, was passed out of the House Financial Services Committee, of which Frank is the Chair, by a 30-19 vote last September. However, due to the then-emerging economic crisis in the United States, it did not see time on the House floor.
According to the Associated Press, the NFL previously sought outside counsel. Miller’s hiring bucks that trend. He explained, “The emphasis is to have a full-time person spending every waking moment thinking about how what Congress or the administration is doing is going to affect the NFL’s business model.” The NFL held its annual owners’ meetings last week in California, instituting a number of rule changes as well as adjusting the draft order based on a team’s finish in the playoffs. Fantasy sports received a specific exemption from the UIGEA, although the law forced industry websites to guarantee prize pools and not allow a manager to have all of his players come from the same team.
Joe Brennan, Chairman of the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA), told Poker News Daily why sports betting has received such a bad rap: “It’s the only type of betting where the courts have been explicit. The Wire Act arose out of a couple of sports betting scandals back in the 1950s. It always comes back to trying to protect the integrity of the game.” iMEGA is suing to declare the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional. The case has been assigned to Chief Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr. of the New Jersey District Court.