On Tuesday, lawyers from the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) argued in front of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The objective: prove that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) is unconstitutional.

iMEGA’s case was the second on the docket on Tuesday in the Third Circuit behind a legal battle over whether a Yeshiva school could be constructed on the grounds of a synagogue based on zoning rights. One of the central issues discussed by the trade organization and counsel  for the United States Attorney General’s Office was where a bet placed online actually occurs. iMEGA Executive Director Joe Brennan explained, “We argued that the bet took place in another country like Costa Rica. When a person enters into a bet, it comes from an account already placed on the site.” However, it could be argued that bets originate on a person’s computer, on a server, or somewhere along the way in cyberspace.

Also at the forefront of the debate on Tuesday was whether iMEGA had standing to sue, something Brennan noted was preserved at the District Court level. iMEGA has online poker sites and individual players as members. Brennan recalled, “There was a ruling from the Third Circuit that concluded whether or not third parties could come forward if members were harmed, but [U.S. Attorney General counsel] Nicholas Bagley wasn’t familiar with it.” On his overall impressions, Brennan admitted, “It’s tough to tell. The three judge panel spent a lot of time with us. They didn’t spend as much time with the Government’s attorneys.”

Also questioned was whether it would have been advantageous for iMEGA to find an internet gambler who was harmed to appear in court. It’s a similar quandary that the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) has found itself in with regards to the online poker funds seizure in New York. In essence, anyone who stepped forward would be required to testify under oath that they played online poker. Brennan noted, “We said that, per the language of the statute, a person would essentially incriminate themselves in order to challenge the UIGEA. While there are no criminal sanctions, there are civil penalties for players.”

Judges Dolores Sloviter, Thomas Ambro, and Kent Jordan listened to attorneys for iMEGA and the Federal Government on Tuesday. The panel will now deliberate and return one of a wide variety of verdicts. One of the questions posed concerned the status of bills to license the industry in the United States and delay the implementation of the UIGEA’s regulations. Both were introduced on May 6th and referred to the House Financial Services Committee. HR 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, is up to 40 co-sponsors. HR 2266, the Reasonable Prudence in Regulation Act, has attracted 23 co-sponsors. Neither has been scheduled for mark-up or discussion on the floor of the House of Representatives. One possible outcome is the Third Circuit deferring a resolution until Frank’s bills are acted on.

Many in the industry are now scrambling to ascertain when the Third Circuit will hand down a decision. Brennan revealed that the court’s average turnaround time is three months and iMEGA does not expect to hear back in the next 30 days. At the District Court level, the organization was left in the dark for nearly six months.

In the meantime, iMEGA will turn its attention to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, where briefs were filed to the state’s Supreme Court in May. To open the year, the Kentucky Court of Appeals in Louisville overturned a lower court ruling by a two to one margin and asserted that the Commonwealth did not have jurisdiction to seize 141 internet gambling domain names. The State quickly appealed. There has been no word on whether the Kentucky Supreme Court will take the case.

Visit the official website of iMEGA.

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