The anti-online poker forces in the United States enjoy repeating the same, tired, inaccurate lines every time they try to convince people that poker will be the downfall of society. Unfortunately, as inane the letters they have written and bills they have concocted are, the people who write them are the ones who have their voices heard. It hasn’t amounted to much of anything yet, but until the opposition stops, there is always a threat that the state of online gambling in the U.S. can get worse than it is (and it’s not good) or disappear altogether. Finally, a pro-online gambling group of lawmakers have stepped up to the plate and written their OWN letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, urging him to ignore the yapping from those on Sheldon Adelson’s side.
The Wire Act
What Adelson has wanted – and, in turn, what the U.S. Senators and Representatives in his pocket have wanted – is for the U.S. Department of Justice to make the “official” interpretation of the Wire Act an incorrect one. The Wire Act specifically prohibits sports betting over communication wires and…that’s it. Over the years, though, the DoJ has interpreted it to include ALL online gambling, not just sports betting. In late 2011, the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) clarified the Wire Act, confirming that it only applies to sports betting. This opened the door for states to legalize online gambling/poker and four have: Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
Adelson has tried to get a bill passed to revert the interpretation of the Wire Act to the old one, but the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) has not gotten anywhere on Capitol Hill. As such, he has turned to the strategy of having Senators and Reps write letters to Rosenstein, asking him to just straight-up reverse the Wire Act back to the blatantly wrong, previous interpretation.
Responding quickly to the latest RAWA-like letter, a group of ten New Jersey lawmakers submitted their own essay to Rosenstein, telling him to blow off the Adelson contingent and keep the OLC’s clarification of the Wire Act in place. The group of ten consisted of U.S. Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman, Josh Gottheimer, Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo, Tom MacArthur, Bill Pascrell, Jr., Donald M. Payne, and Jr.Albio Sires, along with Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez.
The letter begins by explaining the history of the Wire Act and how it does, in fact, only have to do with sports betting. It then addresses the “doomsday scenarios” presented by poker’s opponents, who continue to try to instill the fear that people, including children, will easily be able to just gamble their life savings away, 24/7:
Strict registration procedures, rigorous regulations, and constant monitoring have proven effective at verifying identification and preventing underage gambling than land-based casinos. Additionally, gambling experts at Washington University in St. Louis found that “based on available research, it is unclear if the Internet contributes to more gambling problems.”
The New Jersey lawmakers, of course, are most concerned about their own state, which has seen its online gambling industry succeed and continue to grow.
“New Jersey has some of the strictest online gaming regulation protocols in the world, featuring technologies which were developed or implemented for state-mandated requirements, including precise geolocation and regulatory monitoring of all operating platforms,” the letter reads. “Additionally, players are guaranteed that the online games in the state meet regulatory standards and requirements, thus ensuring that they are protected from cheating and fraud.”
“Placing a blanket prohibition for online gambling would be an antiquated approach to a 21st-century issue, punishing states like New Jersey – which have invested in creating a safe and secure online gaming structure – while also permitting black market operators to put millions of Americans at risk,” the letter concludes. “Given the statutory language, legislative history, and clear evidence that online gaming has shown clear benefits, we respectfully request that you uphold the 2011 decision that the Wire Act does not prohibit online gambling. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.”
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