Sheldon Adelson, supporter of the Federal Internet Gambling Ban

Sheldon Adelson, supporter of the Federal Internet Gambling Ban

A federal ban of internet-based gambling is also opposed by the bipartisan National Governors Association (NGA), which represent the elected governors of the 50 states. The NGA, for which is the Chair is Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Vice Chair is Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, has sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to oppose any legislative or administrative effort to federally ban internet-based gambling.

The letter notes that the regulation of gambling has historically been at the state level, and that states are far more suitable to do so. While individual governors, and states also, have different views and public policy on gambling, the governors urge that no decisions should be made unilaterally at the federal level without input from the states.

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,” the NGA letter affirms, “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.”

As Attorney General, Jeff Sessions will be weighing a possible ruling on maintaining or altering the 2011 Dept. of Justice interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act to exempt state-based regulated internet gambling. In addition to administrative decisions on the issue that may come from the Justice Dept. under the Trump Administration, the issue could be addressed legislatively in Congress. In the last session of Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) along with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have introduced a bill called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) that would overturn the Justice interpretation and clearly define the Wire Act as prohibiting online gambling in all 50 states.

After a hearing before the House Oversight Committee chaired by Rep. Chaffetz, most observers concluded RAWA had less support than it did before the hearing. Several over RAWA-like bills, that would also have federally banned internet gambling, have failed to advance in Congress.

RAWA is primarily backed by Las Vegas Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has donated large sums of money to many Republican candidates for Congress and the Senate. Adelson is seeking enaction of RAWA because he sees online gambling as direct competition to his brick-and-mortar casinos.

The letter from the NGA quite correctly stresses how a federal internet ban would drives these activities to entirely unsafe and unregulated internet-based casino located overseas. It is also noted how state-based regulation more effective protects the rights of those states, that choose to prohibit internet-based gambling, to do so as well the efforts in all states to protect children. Many of the witnesses presented evidence for this, from the states that currently do allow regulated state-based internet gambling, at the hearing held this past summer before the House Oversight Committee.

Attorney General Sessions, as well as Congress, should take seriously the recommendation by the NGA to not federally regulate or prohibit internet-based gambling. The Tenth Amendment clearly relegates the regulation of gambling, including that on the internet, to the states. Any regulation or public policy in this area should be conducted at the state level.