Citation Edit

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) Pub. L. No. 109-347 (2006) (part of the "SAFE Port Act"), codified at 31 U.S.C. §§5361–67.

Overview Edit

The Act prohibits any person engaged in the business of betting or wagering (as defined in the Act) from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling. Such transactions are termed "restricted transactions." The Act generally defines unlawful Internet gambling as

placing, receiving, or otherwise knowingly transmitting a bet or wager by any means which involves the use, at least in part, of the Internet where such bet or wager is unlawful under any applicable Federal or State law in the State or Tribal lands in which the bet or wager is initiated, received, or otherwise made.

From the general definition, the Act exempts three categories of transactions: (i) Intrastate transactions (a bet or wager made exclusively within a single State, whose State law or regulation contains certain safeguards regarding such transactions and expressly authorizes the bet or wager and the method by which the bet or wager is made, and which does not violate any provision of applicable Federal gaming statutes); (ii) intratribal transactions (a bet or wager made exclusively within the Indian lands of a single Indian tribe or between the Indian lands of two or more Indian tribes as authorized by Federal law, if the bet or wager and the method by which the bet or wager is made is expressly authorized by and complies with applicable Tribal ordinance or resolution (and Tribal-State Compact, if applicable) and includes certain safeguards regarding such transaction, and if the bet or wager does not violate applicable Federal gaming statutes); and (iii) interstate horseracing transactions (any activity that is allowed under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978.[1]

The Department of Justice has consistently taken the position that the interstate transmission of bets and wagers, including bets and wagers on horse races, violates Federal law and that the Interstate Horseracing Act (the "IHA") did not alter or amend the Federal criminal statutes prohibiting such transmission of bets and wagers. The horse racing industry disagrees with this position. While the Act provides that the definition of "unlawful Internet gambling" does not include "activity that is allowed under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978,"[2] Congress expressly recognized the disagreement over the interplay between the IHA and the federal criminal laws relating to gambling and determined that the Act would not take a position on this issue.[3]

The Act states that its provisions should not be construed to alter, limit, or extend any federal or state law or Tribal-State compact prohibiting, permitting, or regulating gambling within the United States.[4] The Act does not spell out which activities are legal and which are illegal, but rather relies on the underlying substantive Federal and State laws.[5]

The Act requires the agencies (in consultation with the U.S. Attorney General) to designate payment systems that could be used in connection with or to facilitate restricted transactions. Such a designation makes the payment system, and financial transaction providers participating in the system, subject to the requirements of the regulations.[6] The Act further requires the Agencies (in consultation with the U.S. Attorney General) to prescribe regulations requiring designated payment systems and financial transaction providers participating in each designated payment system to establish policies and procedures reasonably designed to identify and block or otherwise prevent or prohibit restricted transactions. The regulations must identify types of policies and procedures that would be deemed to be reasonably designed to achieve this objective, including non-exclusive examples.

The Act also requires the Agencies to exempt certain restricted transactions or designated payment systems from any requirement imposed by the regulations if the agencies jointly determine that it is not reasonably practical to identify and block, or otherwise prevent or prohibit the acceptance of, such transactions. Under the Act, a participant in a designated payment system is considered to be in compliance with the regulations if it relies on and complies with the policies and procedures of the designated payment system and such policies and procedures comply with the requirements of the Agencies' regulations. The Act also directs the Agencies to ensure that transactions in connection with any activity excluded from the Act's definition of "unlawful Internet gambling," such as qualifying intrastate transactions, intratribal transactions, or interstate horseracing transactions, are not blocked or otherwise prevented or prohibited by the prescribed regulations.


  1. 15 U.S.C. §§3001 et seq..
  2. 31 U.S.C. §5362(10)(D)(i).
  3. Rather, the Sense of Congress provision,codified at 31 U.S.C. §5362(10)(D)(iii), states as follows:
    It is the sense of Congress that this subchapter shall not change which activities related to horse racing may or may not be allowed under Federal law. This subparagraph is intended to address concerns that this subchapter could have the effect of changing the existing relationship between the Interstate Horseracing Act and other Federal statutes in effect on the date of enactment of this subchapter. This subchapter is not intended to resolve any existing disagreements over how to interpret the relationship between the Interstate Horseracing Act and other Federal statutes.
  4. 31 U.S.C. §5361(b).
  5. See H. Rep. No. 109–412 (pt. 1), at 10.
  6. The Act defines "financial transaction provider" as a creditor, credit card issuer, financial institution, operator of a terminal at which an electronic fund transfer may be initiated, money transmitting business, or international, national, regional, or local payment network utilized to effect a credit transaction, electronic fund transfer, stored value product transaction, or money transmitting service, or a participant in such network or other participant in a designated payment system.

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