Remember when some in the poker community thought that a Donald J. Trump presidency could be good for online poker? After all, he used to own casinos and has said some mildly not-negative things about some forms of online gambling in the past. Well, hold onto your pants, because a Trump presidency isn’t going to just be bad for non-poker players, but it looks like it could very well be terrible for online poker fans, as well. On Tuesday, the Senate confirmation hearings got underway for Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and well…things don’t look particularly promising.
One of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who asked Sessions questions was Senator Lindsey Graham (R – S.C.). Graham is the champion of Sheldon Adelson’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in the Senate and for years now has been trying to do his part to shut down online poker in the U.S. During his less-than-challenging questioning of Sessions (heck, he prefaced his turn at the microphone by saying he would enthusiastically recommend Sessions for Attorney General), Graham, as expected, brought up the Wire Act.
The Wire Act makes sports betting over telecommunications lines illegal, but when internet gambling rose to prominence, the Department of Justice incorrectly interpreted the Wire Act to include all forms of gambling. At the end of 2011, the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) clarified the Wire Act, confirming that it only applied to sports betting, thus opening the door for states to legalize online poker. Graham, Adelson, and the rest of the anti-online poker crowd hated this and have been trying to overturn the OLC’s opinion ever since.
Graham posed the basic question to Sessions, asking, “About the Wire Act, what’s your view of the…Obama’s Administration’s interpretation of the Wire Act law to allow online video poker, or poker…gambling?”
“Senator Graham, I was shocked at the memorandum – I guess – the enforcement memorandum that the Department of Justice issued with regard to the Wire Act and criticized it,” Sessions responded. “Apparently, there is some justification or argument that can be made to support the Department of Justice’s position, but I did oppose it when it happened and it seemed to me to be an unusual….”
“Would you revisit it?” Graham interrupted.
“I would revisit it and I would make a decision about it based on careful study and I haven’t gone that far to give you an opinion today,” Sessions answered.
And that was it.
Now, Sessions’ brief take isn’t as horrible as if he had straight-up said he hated online poker and would scrub the OLC’s opinion from the record, but it wasn’t good. That he said he was “shocked” at the memorandum reveals his displeasure with online poker and should be a pretty good indicator of which said of the RAWA argument he stands.
If Sessions had no intention to do anything about the Wire Act, he also would not have said he will revisit the OLC’s opinion on the matter. It certainly looks like he intends to review it and very probably through RAWA-tinted glasses. If Sessions wasn’t against online poker, he likely would not have said he will revisit the memorandum, but rather couched his response with more non-committal language.