Online gambling ball in AG's court again?

US Senator Hoping Third Time Is The Charm In Quest To Ban Online Gambling

Lindsey Graham online gambling

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) plans to use the confirmation hearing of the next attorney general to rail against online gambling.

Here we go again.

According to reporting from Gambling Compliance (paywall), the 2011 Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion that opened the door for states to legalize online gambling — casino games, online poker and the lottery — will be one of the first things the senator asks nominee Bill Barr to address.

Graham indicated that he would seek an updated written or verbal stance from Barr on the 1961 Wire Act.

Graham’s obsession with the Wire Act

Using the bulk of his time to question an AG nominee about an issue that’s only on the radar of one person (Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson) is a Graham tradition that dates back to the Loretta Lynch confirmation hearing in January 2015.

Shot down by Lynch, Graham decided to try his luck with 2017 Donald Trump nominee and former colleague Jeff Sessions. Sessions was a bit more open to looking into the matter, but his comments seemed to be little more than lip service. He declined to revisit the 2011 DOJ opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

Now Graham is hoping former George H.W. Bush AG and current nominee Barr will be sympathetic to his cause.

If recent history is any indication, though, he probably won’t.

All alone in his quest?

Two other AG’s have already checked the work of the opinion’s author, Virginia Seitz, including the devoutly anti-gambling Sessions.

Furthermore, with all of the issues the DOJ has on its plate, addressing state-sponsored online gambling doesn’t seem like a high priority. That’s particularly true when it appears to be a one-man crusade orchestrated by Adelson, a casino magnate looking to shield his gambling empire from the competition.

It’s also one of the rarest animals in Washington D.C. — an issue that has widespread, bipartisan opposition.

Here’s a short list of those opposed to federal action on online gambling:

This hasn’t stopped Graham from asking for it, nor prevented him from making outlandish claims about online gambling.

  • POKER
  • BONUS
  • DETAILS
  • PLAY

Stop with the ‘what-if’ scenarios

  • Claim: Online gambling is the “Wild West” with no rules, and “we need to get ahead of this, or we’re going to regret it.”
  • Fact: Online gambling is legal and regulated in at least a dozen states. In several cases, it has been operating virtually incident-free for more than five years.

It’s pretty tough to get ahead of something that has been legal for more than a half a decade. But here we are heading into 2019, and folks like Graham are still speaking about online gambling as if it is some abstract concept.

Here’s a newsflash for Graham: We already know what happens when states legalize online gambling. We’ve known for more than five years now, thanks to New Jersey, Delaware, NevadaGeorgia, Illinois, Michigan, and beyond.

The reality:

  • The sky will not fall.
  • Technology that verifies age, identity and physical location is effective.
  • States are capable of regulating online gambling, just as they regulate land-based casinos.

Legal cases, scholars support 2011 opinion

  • Claim: Graham told GC that the OLC opinion was a “bizarre interpretation” of the Wire Act.
  • Fact: That interpretation is directly in line with the conclusions of multiple courts and legal scholars.

You’re more likely to find a MAGA hat at a Bernie Sanders rally than a legal scholar who thinks the 2011 OLC opinion is out of line.

In fact, it was the previous DOJ opinion from 2002 that was the controversial one. Courts subsequently decided cases like Mastercard International Inc. (2002) and U.S. v. Lyons (2014) contrary to that opinion.

Furthermore, scholars and legal experts have concluded that the most recent OLC opinion is the correct interpretation of the aging Wire Act.

It’s not about ‘restoring’ the Wire Act

As Online Poker Report has detailed in the past, the idea that the 2011 OLC opinion reversed a decades-old statute is hogwash. That opinion merely replaced an outdated 2002 opinion issued by the DOJ.

Graham and all the others who support “restoring” the Wire Act don’t want to restore it to its original intent. Rather, they want to go back to the 2002 version, back to a DOJ opinion they liked.

It sounds like it will be up to Barr to weigh in.

Steve Ruddock
- 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.