During his confirmation hearing in early January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he’d be open to revisiting the Justice Department’s interpretation of the Wire Act, which allowed states the opportunity to legalize online gaming.
Just three months later, it appears Sessions may be following through with that intention.
Within the past two weeks, the National Governors Association and the Poker Players Alliance have publicly expressed their opposition to any move from Sessions that could ban online gaming or internet lottery sales.
John Pappas, Executive Director of the PPA, said that it was known all along that federal action on online gaming was a possibility, but over the past week, he and others began hearing from sources within government agencies that a decision may be forthcoming.
In response, the PPA ratcheted up their advocacy efforts by asking poker players to reach out to Sessions voicing their opposition.
“It’s unclear where things stand today, but I certainly believe that our efforts over the last three to five days has probably made an impact,” Pappas said. “Hopefully, at a minimum, we’ve slowed things down and, at best, we’ve stopped it completely.”
What Does This All Mean?
Even if the Justice Department reverses its previous opinion regarding the Wire Act, in which it stated the act only applied to sports betting, it’s not clear how this would affect the online gaming market in the United States.
Despite a change in the opinion, states like Pennsylvania and New York could continue their efforts to introduce online gaming since the Wire Act itself and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which includes an exemption for state regulated activity, remain unchanged. But would the Department of Justice then take legal action against New Jersey, Delaware, or Nevada or states that already offer online lottery sales?
No one is really sure what would come next, but for Pappas, the biggest impact would be a “chilling effect” that this move could have on states that are currently pursuing online gaming.
By creating a gray area in which there is confusion over whether states are able to pursue online gaming, this action by Sessions could effectively halt much of the progress made in 2017.
“We don’t want to give Pennsylvania lawmakers, New York lawmakers, or Michigan lawmakers any excuse not to do the right thing,” Pappas said.
National Governors’ Association Also Opposed
The PPA isn’t alone in their opposition to a potential reversal on the Justice Department’s opinion regarding the Wire Act.
On April 3, the National Governors Association sent a letter to Sessions outlining their opposition to any federal legislative or administrative action that would ban online Internet gaming and Internet lottery sales.
Signed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, the letter states:
“The regulation of gaming has historically been addressed by the states. While individual governors have different views about offering gaming – in a variety of forms – within their own states, we agree that decisions at the federal level that affect state regulatory authority should not be made unilaterally without state input. A strong, cooperative relationship between the states and federal government is vital to best serve the interests of all citizens.”
What Can You Do?
The PPA has developed a letter that you can easily send to the Attorney General, voicing your support for states to make the decision on whether to offer online gaming. Simply enter your name, email address, and zip code to send this letter to the Attorney General’s office.
With the future of online gaming in question, reaching out to government officials is an incredibly effective way of voicing your opinion on the matter.