US Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s choice to replace outgoing AG Eric Holder, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) for confirmation hearings starting today, and the American Gaming Association wants to know her views on illegal betting.
In a letter sent on Tuesday to SJC Chairman Charles Grassley, and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman urged the SJC to “bear in mind the important role of the Department of Justice in cracking down on illegal gambling activities”, and to “ensure that the next attorney general takes seriously the problem of illegal gambling across the country.”
To further illustrate the AMA’s concerns, and with an eye toward the upcoming Super Bowl Sunday, Freeman added:
“Illegal gambling operations attract illicit activities, such as money laundering and other serious crimes, while siphoning critical tax revenues from state and local governments across the country.
The problem is all the more apparent with illegal sports betting, a matter of great interest among regulators, professional sports leagues, journalists and others.”
He estimated that $3.8 billion would be wagered illegally during the Super Bowl, or 38 times the amount of legal wagers.
And to his point that illegal sports-betting is of great interest, high stakes poker player Paul Phua and his son Darren have made recent headlines for allegedly running an illegal sports-betting operation from Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
Online Gambling Not Specifically Mentioned
While online poker players should be glad the AMA letter sidesteps their favorite past time (it’s not federally illegal to play poker online, and the AMA remains neutral toward online gambling), one shouldn’t forget the DOJ’s role in making the state of US online poker a decidedly disunited one in 2011.
As it happens, the attorney largely responsible for putting thousands of online poker grinders out of work (and for ensuring the return of their account balances, to be fair), is practically a neighbor of Loretta Lynch.
Black Friday architect Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was an early rival for the AG nomination, and you can bet that Loretta Lynch, currently the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is familiar with the work of the federal prosecutor who put a bad beat on poker in America.
Expectations for Loretta Lynch
Online poker enthusiasts can be thankful that Bharara was overlooked for the AG nomination, but it’s anyone’s guess as to what can be expected of Lynch with regard to poker, should she be confirmed.
As for illegal betting, Lynch once prosecuted members of a murderous Asian street gang, who were used as protection for an illegal gambling business, and to extort money from legitimate businesses.
That experience, along with some knowledge of the case involving the Full Tilt debacle, for example, might lead her to regard gambling with overall suspicion.
Eric Holder’s stance on gambling may offer clues to how the next attorney general will operate, however.
He recently limited the degree to which state and local law enforcement can seize personal property without a warrant, and that could protect poker players, some of whom have lost significant cash winnings due to the civil asset forfeiture program.
While Holder’s change in policy can offer a collateral benefit to poker players, his stance on laws affecting online poker was heard in a statement he made before a House Judiciary Committee in 2011: “We have to enforce the law as it exists and there are laws on the books with regard to Internet gambling [UIGEA] that we have to enforce.” -US Attorney General Eric Holder
He later left the door open for PokerStars and Full Tilt to become licensed however, instead of opting to ban them altogether. Whether the new US Attorney General will find similar flexibility remains to be seen.