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More specifically, the letter asks the government to rollback a 2011 Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinion that determined the 1961 Wire Act only applied to sports betting and not to other forms of online gambling.
The letter was brought to light on Friday evening by the Poker Players Alliance.
The letter states:
“In the dark of night on Christmas 2011, the Obama administration overruled 50 years of practice and precedent when a Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel opinion claimed the Wire Act only applied to sports betting,”
There are several dubious claims in just this single sentence:
In addition to the OLC, courts have reached the same conclusion.
As I wrote here in 2015:
“The 2002 DOJ interpretation was overruled in federal court several times, and legal analysts have questioned the opinion’s validity since it was offered, particularly the expansion of the Wire Act not just to the Internet, but beyond sports betting.”
The letter uses the typical bombastic language we’ve come to expect from the anti-online gambling crowd, including fears of rampant underage gambling and the proliferation of criminal activity.
Notably, in the three states with legal online gambling , and the four states with legal online lottery, none of these doomsday scenarios have come to fruition.
In fact, data suggests online sites are much better on these fronts than land-based casinos, and experts have concluded that it’s incredibly difficult to launder money in a regulated online setting.
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The 10 signatories on the aforementioned letter are:
Of these, six actively endorsed the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in 2015.
This is far from the first letter of this type.
Similar letters were sent in each of the last two years, and letters opposing online gambling date back to 2007.
That year, 43 attorneys general sent a letter of opposition to Congress expressing their concern for a bill introduced by Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank to legalize online gambling.
The new attorneys general letters reappeared when the RAWA bills began to be introduced, but they’ve garnered only a fraction of the support the original 2007 letter was able to procure.
In 2014, 16 attorneys general (including the Attorney General of Guam) called for a federal online gambling ban. In 2015, the number of attorneys general supporting a federal online gambling ban dropped to just eight.
Attorneys general support through the years:
The letter is certainly not a positive sign.
But with only 20 percent of the attorneys general in the United States signing on to the letter, and with support still well below what it was in 2014, it’s not something online gambling advocates need to wring their hands over.