Sheldon Adelson, with all his riches, is most certainly a force to be reckoned with in the battle for online poker. While it is certainly not chicken counting time, the pro-poker side seems to be doing quite well amongst people and groups not on receiving money from the Las Vegas Sands CEO. Another political group stepped up for online poker last week, panning the Restoration of America’s Wire Act.
That group, the National Governors Association, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D – Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – Kent.), Speaker of the House John Boehner (R – Ohio), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D – Calif.) on Friday expressing their distaste for the bill to the Congressional leaders. The letter was brief and to the point:
Dear Majority Leader Reid, Senator McConnell, Speaker Boehner, and Representative Pelosi:
The nation’s governors are concerned with legislation introduced in Congress that would ban online Internet gaming and Internet lottery sales because it challenges the federal-state relationship.
The regulation of gaming is an issue that has historically been addressed by the states. Regardless of whether governors are in favor of offering gaming—through whatever form—within their own states, decisions at the federal level that affect state regulatory authority should not be made unilaterally without state input. A strong, cooperative relationship between the states and federal government is vital to best serve the interests of all citizens.
The Restoration of America’s Wire Act was introduced into both the U.S. Senate (S. 2159) and House of Representatives (H.R. 4301) two months ago by Senator Lindsey Graham (R – S.C.) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R – Utah), respectively. The goal of the bill is to revert the interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act to once again prohibit all internet gambling. The Wire Act only specifies that online sports betting is illegal (while there was no internet 53 years ago, the Act bans sports betting over wire communications, logically interpreted as including the internet), but the U.S. Department of Justice had been of the opinion that it outlawed all internet gambling. In late 2011, the Department of Justice clarified its stance on the Wire Act, confirming that it only applied to sports betting.
This new, correct interpretation has not made Sheldon Adelson and other online poker opponents happy, as it opened the door for states to individually legalize and regulate online gaming. Three states have – Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada – and more states are considering it. Reverting back to the incorrect interpretation of the Wire Act would likely require those states to shut down their online gambling industries and take away gambling decisions from the states when that is something states have traditionally been allowed to control themselves.
According to its mission statement, the National Governors Association, “…is the bipartisan organization of the nation’s governors. Through NGA, governors share best practices, speak with a collective voice on national policy and develop innovative solutions that improve state government and support the principles of federalism.”