Last month’s “Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement” that was signed by the governors of Nevada and Delaware that marked the beginning of the first interstate online gambling compact in the United States was hailed as a great triumph by the poker community. For those who are against online gaming, though, it was a warning shot that required attention. According to an article by Karoun Demirjian of the Las Vegas Sun, one U.S. Congressman is taking action to try to nullify the Agreement and prevent any more from being inked.
To backtrack briefly, Nevada and Delaware are two of just three states (the other being New Jersey) that have legalized and regulated online gambling in some form. Delaware has legalized virtually all forms of gaming, whereas only poker is legal in Nevada. The problem the two states face is that they, and Delaware in particular, are both on the low end of the population spectrum. Because online gaming sites are only allowed to accept customers from within state borders, this lack of population poses a problem, especially for poker rooms that need a steady flow of traffic to keep games going.
While the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) effectively put a halt on online gambling by making the flow of funds to and from sites illegal, it did leave the door open for states to regulate internet gaming on their own, as well as form compacts to pool their potential player bases. The spark that officially ignited the push to legalize online gambling on the state level came in late 2011, when the Department of Justice reworked its interpretation of the Wire Act to define it as making only online sports betting illegal. This reinterpretation also said that non-sports transactions could also be made across state lines.
All of that has led up to the opening up of internet gaming markets in three states so far as well as the union of two of them, not unlike the joint lotteries like Mega Millions and Powerball.
This isn’t sitting well with everyone, though, and according to Demirjian, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R – Utah) wants to put an end to online gambling in the U.S. He plans to introduce legislation next that would reverse the DoJ’s 2011 opinion and set it back to interpreting the Wire Act as prohibiting all internet gambling.
M.J. Henshaw, a spokeswoman for Chaffetz, told the Las Vegas Sun, “For 50 years the Wire Act was interpreted one way, and then two days before Christmas, the DOJ decides to change that interpretation. The bill would restore the original interpretation of the Wire Act pre-December 2011, the one that was issued by the DOJ.”
It should come as no real surprise that a bill like this would come from a legislator from Utah, one of two states (Hawaii is the other) that has no legal forms of gambling, not even the ubiquitous lottery. Chaffetz is also one of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives. The American Conservative Union (ACU) gave him an 84 rating in 2013 (100 is a “perfect” conservative score – the ACU recognizes member of the Senate and Congress with scores of 80 or higher) and over the course of his five years of service, he has receive a rating of 94.4.