Jeff Sessions Hints He Might Reverse Wire Act Opinion Affecting U.S. Online Gambling
In confirmation hearings on Tuesday, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said he was “shocked” when he learned that the Department of Justice approved online casinos and online poker in a 2011 opinion. The decision paved the way for online gambling legalization in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.
Jeff Sessions’s pronouncement is important for the future of online gambling in the United States, because the senator is set to become the next attorney general of the United States.
As attorney general, Jeff Sessions would head the U.S. Department of Justice. He could reverse the 2011 opinion and effectively ban online gambling at the federal level of government.
Jeff Sessions Quote on RAWA
When asked about the online gambling question by Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sessions replied, “I did oppose [the 2011 DOJ opinion] when it happened, and it seemed to me to be unusual. I would revisit it or make a decision about it based on careful study. I haven’t gone that far to give you an opinion today.”
Michelle Minton of the American Spectator and Competitive Enterprise Institute has been one of the few journalists to report from Capitol Hill hearing on Restore America’s Wire Act. When she heard Sessions’ remarks on Tuesday, Minton tweeted, “Sounds like his mind’s already made up.”
Online Gambling in the United States
If so, then online gambling in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware might be struck down overnight. Those states likely would sue to restore their right to formulate their own gambling laws. A lawsuit likely would go before the US Supreme Court, where it might be challenged on the grounds of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
It is a much more ambiguous statement than the one made by AG Loretta Lynch when Lindsey Graham asked her the same question. When asked whether she would overturn the RAWA decision by her predecessor, Attorney General Lynch said, “Unless in the course of my review I conclude that OLC’s interpretation of the Wire Act is unreasonable, I do not intend to take any action to suspend or revoke the opinion.”
States Which Would Oppose a Ban
Readers should not assume Jeff Sessions plans to overturn RAWA just yet. Since the 2011 opinion, several other states have used the DoJ’s lenience to expand online gambling. Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, and Illinois have online lottery ticket sales, so those four states likely would support any legal action against a new federal ban on online gambling.
Perhaps more pivotal is the fact those states have congressmen who would oppose a ban on online gambling. Jeff Sessions likely would face a controversy to simply reverse the decision.
Online Gambling expansion
Also, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and Massachusetts have discussed legalizing online gambling in one form or another. Each of those states would lose millions in tax revenues if a ban was put in place. The nine U.S. states which have legalized online daily fantasy sports might be concerned about such a ban, because they might be next.
Thus, a wide coalition of states might oppose an online gambling ban. On the other hand, RAWA proponent Sheldon Adelson is a key contributor to Republican Party causes, and he is personal friends with Donald Trump. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, are on the 20-person Inauguration Celebration committee.
Those concerned have one other hope, however forlorn it might be. During his Attorney General confirmation hearings on Wednesday, Jeff Sessions kept returning to one theme: he would follow the law. Jeff Sessions is a law-and-order official who follows the law even when he disagrees with it.
Of course, this is one of those cases where Jeff Sessions or his legal staff would be asked to interpret the law. Many Republicans take a dim view of federal authority, but most Republicans are not the Attorney General, either. Usually, officials tend to grab as much authority as possible. In this case, the future of online gambling could be in the hands of Sen. Jeff Sessions.
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