New Jersey Congressional Delegation To DOJ: Ignore Calls For Online Gambling Ban

Steve Ruddock January 15, 2018 2308 Reads
New Jersey State Capitol Building

In response to a letter from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA), 10 members of Congress sent a letter to the Department of Justice urging the DoJ to leave in place a 2011 Office of Legal Counsel opinion that leaves online gambling decisions up to the states.

As US Poker reported last week, in addition to the Graham/Feinstein letter there has been growing list of letters supporting a federal online gambling prohibition in recent months.

The letter sent by the New Jersey delegation was addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and reads in part:

“We write to urge you to keep in place the Department of Justice’s 2011 opinion holding that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting.

“Placing a blanket prohibition for online gambling would be an antiquated approach to a 21st century issue, punishing states like New Jersey, which have invested in creating a safe and secure online gaming structure, while also permitting black market operators to put millions of Americans at risk.”

The letter also notes:

  • The “doomsday scenarios” critics predicted have not come to pass.
  • Legal online gambling has been effective in monitoring underage and problem gambling through a strict registration process, strong regulations, and constant monitoring.
  • Online gambling has been a big part of Atlantic City’s recent turnaround and has led to significant capital investments.

Most of New Jersey delegation is on board

The letter was signed by most of New Jersey’s congressional delegation – 10 out of 14 members – including both of the state’s US Senators.

The signatories are:

  • Robert Menendez
  • Cory Booker
  • Frank LoBiondo
  • Leonard Lance
  • Tom MacArthur
  • Josh Gottheimer
  • Albio Sires
  • Bonnie Watson Coleman
  • Rep Bill Pascrell Jr.
  • Donald Payne Jr.

Missing from the letter are:

  • Donald Norcross
  • Chris Smith
  • Rodney Frelinghuysen
  • Frank Pallone

The missing names shouldn’t be seen as supporting a federal online gambling ban. Rep. Frank Pallone’s GAME Act would allow states to legalize sports betting and online gambling, which makes it unlikely he would stand opposed to the letter penned by his colleagues.

Is concern warranted?

The short answer is yes.

A reversal of the 2011 OLC opinion would open a legal can of worms, but the Justice Department recently did the very same thing (usurped states rights with federal law) with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to enforce federal marijuana laws, even in states where marijuana has been legalized.

The good news is Sessions has recused himself from the online gambling debate (Sessions hired a lawyer who works for an anti-online gambling lobby group), which is why the letter was addressed to Deputy AG Rosenstein.

It’s also worth noting that support for a federal online gambling prohibition pales in comparison to opposition.

In addition to the New Jersey delegation, the National Governors Association encouraged the DOJ not to overturn the 2011 opinion in April of 2017.

Further, a resolution opposing federal interference in the state’s online gambling industry was passed by the New Jersey State Legislature last summer.

Opposition to a federal prohibition has also come from:

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