US Governors ‘Concerned’ About Possible Online Gambling Ban In Letter To Attorney General Sessions

April 7, 2017
US Governors ‘Concerned’ About Possible Online Gambling Ban In Letter To Attorney General Sessions

The National Governors Association didn’t mince words in sending a letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions about online gambling. The group’s message: Stay out of our business.

Governors group talks iGaming

The governors sent a strongly worded letter to Sessions. Its key takeaway: “States are best equipped to regulate and enforce online gaming.”

It’s fair to guess that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval — the vice chair of the NGA — spearheaded the letter. He signed it and his state features online gambling in the form of iPoker. Of course, several other states have online gambling (New Jersey and Delaware) or lotteries as well.

That’s not to mention that state governments in general and governors in particular are not fans of the federal government telling them what they can and can’t do.

That particularly applies to the gaming industry. A variety of states have liberalized their gaming laws in recent decades, because they wanted to allow for casinos or other types of gaming. While not every state may want to allow online gambling down the road, they all see gaming as being under their purview. They don’t want to see the federal government leaking into something they see as entirely in their domain.

As a result of those generally held stances, we got the letter from the NGA.

The NGA letter on online gambling

Here is the full letter:

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

The nation’s governors are concerned with legislative or administrative actions that would ban online Internet gaming and Internet lottery sales.

The regulation of gaming has historically been addressed by the states. While individual governors have different views about offering gaming—in a variety of forms—within their own states, we agree that decisions at the federal level that affect state regulatory authority should not be made unilaterally without state input.  A strong, cooperative relationship between the states and federal government is vital to best serve the interests of all citizens. 

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. 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.

The nation’s governors stand ready to discuss this issue with you further.

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Why the letter about online gambling now?

The letter likely stems from a brief exchange during Sessions’ confirmation hearing. That took place earlier this year, and Sen. Lindsey Graham asked him about online gambling. In particular, Graham asked about a 2011 Department of Justice memo that said the Wire Act applies only to sports betting, not to online gambling.

Here’s the full exchange from January:

Graham: About the Wire Act, what’s your view of the Obama administration’s interpretation of the Wire Act, to allow online video poker, gambling?

Sessions: Senator, I was shocked at the memorandum, I guess the enforcement memorandum, that the Department of Justice issued, with regard to the Wire Act, and criticized it. Apparently there is some justification or argument that can be made to support the Department of Justice’s position. But I did oppose it when it happened, and it seemed to me to be unusual…

Graham: Would you revisit it?

Sessions: I would revisit it, and I would make a decision about it based on careful study, and I haven’t gone that far, to give you an opinion today.

Is Sessions about to alter the future of online gambling? Probably not. But the governors want their opinion to be on the record.

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