State Attorneys General Petitioning Congress to Ban Online Poker

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As you are reading this, Americans are free to play online poker in three states. Though no bills legalizing and regulating online poker have made it all the way through Congress, support on Capitol Hill is growing every year. Opponents of online poker are scared, so scared that they are back on the offensive.

The latest salvo from the anti-poker army: a letter to state Attorneys General calling for an outright ban on online poker. The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) got its hands on the letter last week and has since blasted out to its members via Facebook, Twitter, and its website.

The letter is divided into two parts. The first is a plea from Chris Koster, Missouri’s Attorney General, Jon Bruning, Nebraska’s Attorney General, and Alan Wilson, South Carolina’s, to their fellow state Attorneys General from around the country, urging them to sign the attached letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of both the Senate and House of Representatives Judiciary Committees.

That letter asks Congress to make online gambling, including poker, illegal. In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice adjusted its stance on the Wire Act of 1961, saying that it outlawed only online sports betting, not all online gambling. While the Act was designed to stop organized crime from running sports betting rackets over telephone lines, it had come to be interpreted much more broadly, fitting other gambling like poker under its umbrella. That reversal did not sit well with opponents of online gambling. In the letter, the Attorneys General ask Congress to restore the ban on online gambling (which wasn’t technically there in the first place), but do so in a way that makes it look like they really just want more information on the subject before giving internet gaming the thumbs-up:

The impact of this opinion – which in effect opens the door to the spread of Internet gambling – will have a potentially significant impact on state and local law enforcement. As such, we urge Congress to fully review, assess, understand and debate the significant policy implications entailed in the spread of Internet gambling, including concerns related to money laundering; access by minors; fraud; exploitation of individuals with a gambling addiction; and terrorist financing.

Of course, they had to include the terms “money laundering” and “terrorist financing” in there because fear mongering.

The Attorneys General also want the federal government to ban online gambling in the three states – Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey – that have already legalized and regulated it. Again, because they are concerned for law enforcement. They want “to give federal and state law enforcement agencies time to fully assess and report on the implications Internet gambling has on our respective charges to protect the citizens of our states.”

The way the authors of the letter get around the idea that Congress “may only regulate transactions which are interstate in nature” is quite clever. They say that because online gambling is “interstate in nature” (which is not inaccurate), “federal oversight…is appropriate.”

According to the PPA, ten state Attorneys General, including the three already mentioned, have signed the letter. They are:

Arizona – Tom Horne
Hawaii – David Louie
Michigan – Bill Schuette
Missouri – Chris Koster
Montana – Tim Fox
Nebraska – Jon Bruning
North Dakota – Wayne Stenehjem
South Carolina – Alan Wilson
South Dakota – Marty Jackley
Wyoming – Peter Michael

The PPA is asking everyone to write, e-mail, and tweet their state’s Attorney General and Governor, to support legalized and regulated online poker, even those who have agreed to sign the letter.

More information on how to contact those people can be found on the PPA’s Facebook page as well as a special page on the PPA website about the letter.

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