National Governors Association To AG Sessions: ‘States Are Best Equipped To Regulate And Enforce Online Gaming’

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The National Governors Association Economic Development & Commerce Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week explaining that the group is “concerned with legislative or administrative actions that would ban online Internet gaming and Internet lottery sales.”

Why now for the NGA and online gambling?

Based on the wording, the impetus for the letter appears to be Sessions’ comments during his confirmation hearing:

“I did oppose [the 2011 DOJ opinion] when it happened, and it seemed to me to be unusual,” Sessions said during the hearing. “I would revisit it or make a decision about it based on careful study.”

While troubling, Sessions’ remarks aren’t a death knell for online gaming in the US, and they’ve been somewhat overblown.

What the online gambling letter says

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (a Democrat and the chair of the NGA) and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (a Republican and the vice-chair of the NGA) signed the letter.

The letter makes the case that the decision to legalize or prohibit internet gambling and internet lottery should be left up to the state, as it historically has been.

“While individual governors have different views about offering gaming — in a variety of forms — within their own states,” the letter states, “we agree that decisions at the federal level that affect state regulatory authority should not be made unilaterally without state input.”

The letter highlights the strong regulations and consumer protections that states with legal online gambling or lottery have enacted:

“As you review this issue, we encourage you to take note of the current regulatory mechanisms put in place by the states to ensure that consumers and children are protected, and that licensees comply with strict standards of conduct.

States are best equipped to regulate and enforce online gaming. A ban drives this activity offshore to unregulated jurisdictions, out of the reach of state and federal law enforcement and with risk to consumers.”

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NGA has long opposed federal online gambling prohibitions

The current stance taken by the NGA is not a new one, because they’ve stated it previously..

The NGA sent a similar letter to Congressional leadership in May 2014. That’s when the group came out against the recently introduced Restoration of America’s Wire Act bill:

“Dear Majority Leader Reid, Senator McConnell, Speaker Boehner, and Representative Pelosi:

The nation’s governors are concerned with legislation introduced in Congress that would ban online Internet gaming and Internet lottery sales because it challenges the federal-state relationship.

The regulation of gaming is an issue that has historically been addressed by the states. Regardless of whether governors are in favor of offering gaming—through whatever form—within their own states, 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.”

In 2015, the group clashed with Rep. Jason Chaffetz, one of the drivers of RAWA in Congress, during a contentious conference call.

RAWA has also been opposed by (among others):

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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