13TH JAN 2017 | WRITTEN BY: CHRIS SIEROTY
Eight groups, which describe themselves as free-market, limited government, and freedom-oriented organizations, sent a letter Thursday to Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Attorney General nominee Senator Jeff Sessions, asking to block demands for a federal prohibition on internet gambling.
“After a contentious election year, a divided nation looks to the new [Donald] Trump administration to make good on promises to ‘drain the swamp’ and change the way Washington does business,” according to the coalition’s three-page letter.
Led by Michelle Minton, a fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the coalition of groups urged “the new administration to honor that promise by refusing special interest demands for a federal ban on internet gambling.”
The letter was released two days after Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, told the Senate Judiciary Committee he would review the 2011 opinion by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that allows states to legalize and regulate internet gambling.
The opinion limited the scope of the 1961 Wire Act to sports betting. That decision opened the door to intrastate online gambling.
Since the DOJ’s opinion was released, New Jersey and Delaware have legalized full online casino gambling, while Nevada has legalized online poker.
“I would revisit it, and I would make a decision based on careful study,” Sessions told the committee during his confirmation hearing on his nomination to be the nation’s top law enforcement official.
Minton also mentioned a November 17 letter that ten Republican state attorneys general sent to Pence requesting a Trump administration help them “restore” the Wire Act to its original interpretation.
Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt signed the letter that also asked the Trump administration to protect the rule of law, and not let “arbitrary decisions of individual government officials … create law.”
“We share this desire to protect the rule of law and the legislative process,” Minton and her co-signers wrote.
But the letter warns that reversing the DOJ’s current opinion on the Wire Act does not achieve those goals.
In fact, they “undermine years of legislative efforts and thoughtful legal decisions.”
The letter also argues that the original intent of the 1961 Wire Act was not to create a de facto prohibition on internet gambling, but to assist states in enforcing their laws against gambling and bookmaking.
Opponents of online gaming argue the 2011 opinion bypassed Congress.
Minton and others disagree, writing that “this is simply not true, and ignores the fact that Congress considered and rejected no fewer than five bills prior to 2011 to amend the Wire Act and make it applicable to all online gambling.”
The letter also highlights the failure of Congress to pass the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), noting the measure has received only one hearing and faces continued strong Republican opposition.
Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson’s opposition to online gambling and his support of RAWA is well known in the gaming industry.
Adelson has supported organizations and politicians such as Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, who share his anti-online gambling views.
Last year, Graham sponsored RAWA in the Senate.
In an effort to pass RAWA, Adelson provided the funding for the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling and contributed about $5m to Trump’s presidential campaign.
“Republicans have also been its most vociferous opponents,” the letter said. “Many have raised concerns that the bill violates the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, undermining states’ authority to regulate intrastate commerce.”
Besides Minton, those who signed the letter were: Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty; David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance; Norman Singleton, vice president of policy, Campaign for Liberty; Andrew F. Quinlan, president of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity; Katie McAuliffe, executive director, Digital Liberty; Paul Guessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation; and Tom Giovanetti, president of the Institute for Policy Innovation.