In all honesty, there has been very little regarding the regulation of online gaming and/or poker in the halls of Washington, D. C. of late. Back during his confirmation hearings, however, the then-Attorney General nominee, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, was posed the question of what he would do with the 2011 decision by the Department of Justice by Sheldon Adelson water boy South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Sessions reply was that he would have to reexamine the decision “at some point in time.”
It seems that, at least in some arenas, that Sessions (now firmly ensconced as the head of the Department of Justice as Attorney General) is ready to reexamine the issue. Perhaps influenced by anti-online gaming zealot, casino owner and billionaire Adelson’s work for the Republican Party (AKA his donation of millions of dollars in “bribes” – oh, wait, “money for the Inauguration” and other political donations), many in the nation’s capital have been signaling that the two-pronged approach – the reversal of the 2011 Department of Justice opinion and the introduction of legislation, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) of 2017, into both houses of Congress – is beginning to move once again. The reality of the situation is that poker players’ attention should be on one and not the other.
RAWA, for all practical purposes, has had no life since it was introduced. Because there has been a significant amount of attention put on “state’s rights” issues, many of those in the GOP have recognized that crony capitalism is running afoot on this issue extensively. Adelson’s legal “bribes,” therefore, have had little to no effect on the movement of either bill in the House of Representatives or in the Senate.
There is also the problem of losing the main champion of the bill in the House. Last week, Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz stated that he would not run for re-election in 2018. There has been a great deal of speculation to the reasons for Chaffetz’s decision (some are saying that he doesn’t want to have a tough re-election fight in 2018; some are saying that Chaffetz is actually looking towards a run at Utah’s governorship; still others say that there’s something to the rumors that the FBI has him under investigation for campaign improprieties), but the reality is that Chaffetz was the bill’s main sponsor in the House and was chair of the subcommittee that would push it through. There may be someone else who steps up in the House, but it will take time for them to come forth and pick up the ball of RAWA in the House.
The real problem is with Sessions and the Department of Justice. A simple reversal of the 2011 decision from then-Attorney General Eric Holder‘s Department of Justice – which said that the Wire Act of 1961 only applied to sports betting – lit the fuse for several states to move forward with online lottery ticket sales. Additionally, three states – Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey – moved forward and passed online gaming and poker regulations for their gaming industries (Nevada was the only one that went the route of online poker only) in 2013.
With the potential for that decision to be reversed by the Sessions DoJ at any moment, you might think that there would be some movement by the leading advocate for online poker, the Poker Players Alliance, to putting forth legislation to regulate online gaming and poker through their lobbying efforts. Instead, the PPA only plays defense, saying they aren’t supposed to put forth laws for online poker (what is it that the National Rifle Association or the pharmaceutical or banking lobbyists do? They WRITE LEGISLATION!) despite the fact they say they represent “millions” of players (the level of support for the organization is questionable). Instead of asking those that have moved forth legislation in several states for assistance in writing a potential federal bill, the PPA stays on defense instead of taking a proactive stance.
Whether Sessions reverses the 2011 DoJ decision or not, there are glacial movements in the online gaming and poker question in D. C. and they don’t appear to be for good. That glacial movement is also being seen on the individual state level and there it is a bit more optimistic. While it isn’t known what effect a reversal of the 2011 DoJ decision would have on those states that have passed online gaming and poker regulation and others who might (it is possible that the states may just ignore the federal ban, much like several states have ignored the federal law making marijuana usage illegal), the question hangs like a guillotine over online poker players. It is time, however, that those that say they advocate for poker players to come up with something other than Tweets to demonstrate their abilities to affect the narrative in Washington, D. C. and across the country.