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Online Poker Violates Constitution, Claims Former Nebraska AG

Lawmakers, Stakeholders Meet To Discuss Online Betting Industry

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Online poker should be banned because it violates states’ rights, according to the Sheldon Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

On Thursday, a House subcommittee met to discuss sports betting in the wake of the Supreme Court’s May decision that overturned a law that banned the activity outside of a few states. The sports leagues are calling for new federal mandates, while the casino industry says states can continue effectively regulating the emerging industry. The casino industry says Americans bet $150 billion each year on sports, with 97 percent coming through illicit channels historically.

The widespread state regulation of sports betting obviously has an online component. That was the target of Adelson’s lobbying group, which seeks to restore the 1961 Wire Act. Representing the coalition at the hearing was former Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning.

In testimony to the subcommittee, Bruning compared the regulation of online casino gaming, including poker, with the regulation of marijuana. Bruning says both are unconstitutional.

“[L]et’s not forget the rights of states in which marijuana is illegal,” Bruning said. “Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, Nebraska law enforcement has been overwhelmed with the amount of illegal marijuana flooding into the state […] As Attorney General, I filed an original action against Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to declare Colorado’s marijuana laws violated the U.S. Constitution. But the Supreme Court refused to take our case. And to this day, Nebraskans continue to suffer from Colorado’s legalization of marijuana with no legal recourse.”

He claimed that the “same harm will come to Nebraska” when states legalize online sports betting. “Nebraska will be compelled to rely on the good graces, and regulatory capabilities, of those states that have legalized online sports betting,” he said.

“States like Nebraska, and others where online gambling is not legal, have neither the resources nor the authority to protect their kids from nefarious illegal online gambling operations offering tempting games on their cell phones,” he claimed. “Thus states legalizing online gambling without preventing the online gambling from being offered in Nebraska are violating our 10th Amendment right to control gambling within our borders.”

However, Bruning didn’t mention that state-of-the-art geo-location technology is effective. There have been no scandals involving online casino gaming and the location of the player in the years since Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and recently Pennsylvania, legalized online casino-style games. A handful of other states have online lottery games, which Bruning mentioned. However, he did not say that those internet lottery offerings are unconstitutional.

Bruning called online lottery gambling “intrastate,” while labeling online poker and online sports betting as “interstate.” However, both rely on geo-location.

“States are ill-equipped to enforce gambling laws against interstate and international companies,” he claimed. But those same companies are involved with U.S. state lotteries.

Thursday’s hearing also featured testimony from the American Gaming Association, the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the National Football League. The hearing lasted less than 90 minutes. There will likely be others in the coming months.