Senators Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein Ask DOJ to Rethink Legality of Online Gambling

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Why? That’s the question the poker community is asking after US Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) penned a letter to the Department of Justice seeking a reversal of a 2011 opinion that determined individual states should have a right to legalize online gambling.

Senators Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein
Senators Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein are willing to work across the aisle to squash internet gambling before more states come online. (Image: Washington Times/Washington Examiner)

The letter, dated Nov. 21 and sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, comes just weeks after Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize internet gambling.

In December 2011, eight months after the Black Friday scandal rocked the online poker world, the DOJ reversed its long-held legal opinion that online gambling should be illegal at the federal level based on the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, a federal law prohibiting certain types of gambling businesses to operate in the United States.

The reversal paved the way for individual states to consider pro-online gambling legislation and, within two years, three states (New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware) had legal poker sites in operation. And now, with Pennsylvania, we have a fourth, this one doubling the total number of US residents legally allowed to play poker or gamble online.

Adelson Influence?

But the DOJ’s 2011 opinion hasn’t stopped lobbyists for Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas-based casino magnate and Republican mega-donor, from fighting for an online gambling prohibition … because nothing says, “the land of the free” quite like taking away personal liberties to gamble in ways that don’t enrich Adelson.

Republicans and Democrats refuse to work together to improve healthcare and create genuine tax reform that benefits all. But when it comes to taking away certain freedoms (i.e. gambling), apparently there’s room for bipartisanship.

Graham and Feinstein, the bipartisan-when-convenient members of Congress, wrote an anti-internet gambling letter to the DOJ three years ago that called on the DOJ to reconsider its newly established legal opinion. But beyond being good enough to secure signers donation money from Adelson and other online gambling opponents, particularly in California, it did little to change the federal outlook.

Online Gambling Ready to Spread

With Pennsylvania recently becoming the fourth state to legalize online gambling, and many believing other states could soon follow, the senators again appealed to certain donors with an attempt to persuade the DOJ to change its mind and wipe out an emergent industry.

“Internet gambling takes gambling too far,” the letter reads. “It preys on children and society’s most vulnerable. The FBI has concluded that ‘online casinos are vulnerable to a wide array of criminal schemes,’ including money laundering and ventures by transnational organized crime groups.”

Of course, the letter conveniently fails to mention that the states that have legalized online gambling regulate the industry and require casino operators to pass myriad background checks, preventing Bugsy Siegel types from obtaining a license.

“We fear that unless DOJ promptly revisits its 2011 opinion, our prediction that online casinos could sweep across our country could come to pass,” the senators wrote.

Feinstein and Graham didn’t follow up that statement with an explanation of what life in America would look like if, heaven forbid, people who love to gamble are granted permission to play their favorite casino games on the internet.

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