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New Federal Anti-Online Poker Legislation Introduced

Proposal Sits In Senate Committee


A Republican Senator from Arkansas has breathed new life into a years-old attempt from Sheldon Adelson to ban online casino games for real money nationwide.

Last week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced S.3376, a bill that seeks to “ensure the integrity of laws enacted to prevent the use of financial instruments for funding or operating online casinos are not undermined by legal opinions not carrying the force of law issued by federal government lawyers.”

Cotton’s proposal, which is only shell legislation at this point, sits with the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for a possible hearing in the future.

In late 2011, the Obama Department of Justice re-interpreted the decades-old Wire Act to allow states to pursue Internet lottery activities as well as online casinos. Since then, Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware are the only states to let their respective casinos have regulated online gambling. Pennsylvania, Michigan, California, New York and Massachusetts are all currently looking at Las Vegas-style gambling on the web.

What’s at stake is a regulated online gambling market potentially worth $4 billion by 2020.

Adelson, a Las Vegas casino tycoon with a networth of more than $30 billion, said in 2013 that he’s “willing to spend whatever it takes” to restore the Wire Act to prevent additional states from legalizing and regulating the games.

There were several failed attempts in the following two years. The most recent attempt fell by the wayside in May, when a federal lawmaker from Pennsylvania unsuccessfully tried to get anti-online poker language into a spending bill. That effort came after stand-alone legislation never gained any traction.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who pushed a stand-alone bill in the past, is listed as a co-sponsor for Cotton’s bill. The other co-sponsor is Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). In December, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee discussed an online casino ban bill from Rep. John Chaffetz (R-UT).

Prior to that hearing, there was talk of a proposal coming forward that would have placed a two-year moratorium on online gaming expansion. The ban could have been put in place by mandating a federal study of the online casino industry.

Adelson said he opposes online gambling because of his morals, as he believes there’s no technology to stop underage players. That’s a myth that has been debunked over the years. The 83-year-old recently told Yahoo Finance that he thinks poker is gambling because players can’t control which cards they are dealt.

The Cotton bill comes at an interesting moment because at this summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the GOP platform didn’t call for a ban on online casinos. It had in the last two elections.