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U.S. Senators Pen Anti-Online Poker Letter

Graham, Feinstein Want DOJ To Reverse Wire Act Opinion

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A pair of U.S. Senators apparently are not happy that Pennsylvania last month exercised its right to legalize online poker.

Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) signed a letter dated Nov. 21 that urges the Trump Administration, specifically the Department of Justice, to reverse a 2011 legal opinion that allowed for states to launch online betting industries. Pennsylvania became just the fourth state to do so after its governor signed the gambling reform legislation. Other states are expected to follow Pennsylvania.

Graham and Feinstein have a history of opposing online gaming. Graham pushed legislation to ban the activity in the past, thanks to lobbying efforts from billionaire casino titan Sheldon Adelson. Adelson owns and operates the world’s largest developer of brick-and-mortar casinos. The Adelson-backed legislation aimed to “restore” the 1961 Wire Act, the law that the Obama DOJ watered down. Despite not being a member of her state’s legislature, Feinstein asked California lawmakers to refrain from legalizing and regulating online poker.

“Pennsylvania has recently enacted legislation authorizing internet gambling, and other states are lined up to follow suit,” said Graham and Feinstein. “Online casinos are already operating across state lines pursuant to compacts, and states are contemplating opening up their online casinos to foreign markets. We fear that unless the DOJ promptly revisits its 2011 opinion, our prediction that online casinos could spread across the country could come to pass.”

The letter alleged that online gambling “preys” upon “society’s most vulnerable,” a dubious statement considering research that indicates the most common online gambler has a bachelor’s degree and makes around the median household income in the U.S.

They said that Congress should rule on internet casinos, but it might not be up to them.

The letter came just days before the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming Dec. 4 hearing on the constitutionality of a 1992 federal law that bans sports betting outside a few states. Should that law be struck down, it would clear the way for any state to OK sports gambling, without fear of a federal crackdown. That would likely also apply to online casinos, as states would not have to listen to the feds on gambling-related matters.

New Jersey, which already has online casinos and is pushing for sports books in Atlantic City, believes that the sports betting case will lead to more wagering in cyberspace.

“If we win sports wagering, online gaming will go to every state that adopts sports betting,” David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, told the Associated Press recently. “As soon as sports wagering is legalized, online gambling will follow right behind it.”