Overreaction to AG-Elect´s Comments about Online Poker
Jeff Sessions´ comments to revisit the DoJ´s opinion on the Wire Act led to an overreaction by several “glass-half-empty” industry professionals.
Yesterday, the Senate held the first of its confirmation hearings for Donald Trump´s cabinet nominees, with Attorney General-elect Jeff Sessions getting a pretty easy time from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
During the five-hour hearing, Sessions was questioned on how – as head of the Department of Justice (DoJ) and chief law enforcement officer of the United States – he would approach such issues as gun control, immigration, same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana.
In the middle of the questioning, Senator Lindsay Graham – a puppet for Sheldon Adelson´s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling – threw Sessions a curve ball. Coming at the end of a series of immigration-related questions, Graham asked Sessions
What´s your view of the Obama administration´s interpretation of the Wire Act in relation to online poker?
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What Sessions Said, and What it Might Have Meant
Sessions replied that he was shocked by the memorandum stating that transactions unrelated to a sporting event or contest fell outside the auspices of the Wire Act and admitted that, at the time, he criticized it. However, he added that there were arguments to support the DoJ´s position. The rest of his answer was interrupted by Graham, who asked if Sessions would “revisit” the opinion.
The Attorney-General elect said he would, but that any decision would be arrived at only after a careful study. Graham then switched the questioning back to the subject of immigration. In the context of the five-hour hearing, the reference to online poker lasted less than a minute. Furthermore, Sessions´ comments are open to several interpretations.
Was Sessions shocked by the memorandum because he felt the DoJ should not have got involved in the issue of online gambling, or was he shocked by the content of the memorandum? It is difficult to say. In the late 1990s, Session twice supported anti-online gambling legislation, but has since been neutral on the subject – even writing to one of his state´s residents in 2011 to acknowledge there was support for legalizing Internet gambling.
How Some Industry Professionals Reacted
Depending on whether your glass is half-full or half-empty, Sessions´ comments were either an appropriate response to a question he was asked out of context and unprepared for, or notice that he was going to ban all forms of online gambling. The former is the more likely interpretation, as any review of the DoJ opinion would only be an exercise in appeasing those opposed to online gambling.
Sessions has already acknowledged that there are arguments to support the DoJ´s position, and any reversal of the DoJ opinion would likely take years to implement after several lengthy court battles. Effectively, a review of the DoJ Wire Act opinion is a waste of time and money that will result in the status quo. However, this opinion is not shared by several writers in the online poker industry who took to Twitter to express their glass-half-empty reactions:
Sessions just restarted Adelson’s sad little heart. Adelson is very likely get his wish to ban online poker/gaming. https://t.co/z04kK3dDv4
— Jennifer Newell (@WriterJen) January 10, 2017
Sessions as AG just went from uncertain impact to really bad for online gambling/online poker
— Steve Ruddock (@SteveRuddock) January 10, 2017
Today we learned that Trump’s administration’s AG pick – Jeff Sessions – wants to stop the legalization of marijuana and online poker.
— Steven McLoughlin (@_tizzle) January 11, 2017
The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) also chipped in with its glass-half-empty interpretation of Senator Sessions´ comments, issuing a press release urging the AG-elect to protect states´ rights by not reversing the DoJ´s opinion. The press release claimed that reversing the DoJ´s position on the Wire Act would be a radical departure from the longstanding practice of giving “great weight to any relevant past opinions” and lead to an “unaccountable and completely unregulated black market”.
Will Glass-Half-Empty States Now Sit on the Fence?
How state legislators interpret Senator Sessions´ comments may have an impact on the progress of regulation in states looking to exploit online gambling as a revenue-generator. [geolink href=”https://www.usafriendlypokersites.com/prospects-us-online-poker-regulation-2017/”]Up to ten states[/geolink] could introduce legislation this year for some form of online gambling, but the comments made by the AG-elect could have the effect of glass-half-empty states sitting on the fence and adopting a wait and see approach.
Alternatively, an interpretation of the comments could prompt some states to accelerate their legislation in the hope of a carve-out if the AG-elect revisits the 2011 opinion and – “after a careful study” – finds that online gambling should fall within the Wire Act. Like most movements towards or away from the regulation of online gambling in the United States, we will have to wait and see – without jumping to any rash conclusions.