It has been a while since we heard from Senator Lindsey Graham (R – S.C.) about trying to ban online poker in the United States, so I suppose it was about time for him to try to revive his dead horse. Last week, Graham and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D – CA) sent a letter to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, asking him to reverse the Wire Act clarification issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2011, a decision which would effectively make online gambling completely illegal in the U.S.
As readers may remember, the Wire Act was designed more than 55 years ago to curtail organized crime by making sports betting over phone lines illegal. For whatever reason, decades later, the Department of Justice interpreted it to include all gambling over the internet. In late 2011, the OLC clarified that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting, thus officially opening the door for states to launch their own online gambling industries.
Sen. Graham has introduced billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) multiple times, trying to get the OLC’s ruling reversed, but it largely hasn’t been taken too seriously by lawmakers. Thus, it’s time for another approach.
As one would expect, the letter is mostly bullshit. For example, one paragraph states:
The DOJ opinion had the practical effect of repealing legislation Congress carefully and thoughtfully enacted in 2006 to ban internet gambling – legislation developed over seven years and crafted based on assurances from DOJ at that time that internet gambling was barred by the Wire Act and other federal criminal laws.
I’m not going to bother parsing every word, but suffice to say that the UIGEA – the law referred to there – was not “carefully and thoughtfully enacted.” It was, instead, attached to a must-pass SAFE Port Act and snuck through in the middle of the night with virtually no debate.
The letter goes on to use the “won’t anyone think of the children” scare tactic that we have heard a million times and again cites an old FBI letter that states, “[o]nline casinos are vulnerable to a wide array of criminal schemes” like money laundering. Of course, that letter is always misrepresented, as the concerns it addresses have to do with unregulated gambling, not legal, properly regulated online gambling.
Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas skewered the letter in a statement, saying:
If they were handing out awards for Congressional letters, this one would win “most misleading” in a landslide. Aside from the statement that Pennsylvania authorized online gaming and other states are considering it, there is nary a fact contained with the letter’s five paragraphs. Congress has given express authority to states to regulate igaming, a detail that Senators Graham and Feinstein repeatedly ignore. Moreover, they continue to misrepresent and almost decade old FBI letter that does not address the realities of regulated online gaming. I suppose it’s easier to conflate reality with their own bias to continue making the same points, than actually own up to the fact that regulated igaming is responsible public policy.
The PPA posted the entire letter, which can be read here.