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Does Sessions Exit Threaten Regulated Online Poker?

Posted on by John Lathram

Jeff SessionsTwo of the leading candidates to replace Jeff Sessions have ties to Sheldon Adelson that could threaten the future of regulated online poker in the US.

Last night, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired by President Donald Trump. The sacking of the country´s top law enforcement official came as little surprise to many due to Sessions´ recusal from the investigation into potential collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Moscow. Sessions is replaced temporarily by his former Chief of Staff, Matthew Whitaker – a critic of the Russia inquiry.

Little is known about Whitaker´s views on online gambling. The former US Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa was the co-chairman of anti-online gambling Rick Perry´s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2012, but that doesn´t necessarily mean he shares the same views. Furthermore, Whitaker will likely be too busy in the coming weeks in his new role to be concerned with online gambling.

Of greater concern to advocates of regulated online poker in the US is who might be Sessions´ permanent replacement. The leading US sportsbook – Bovada Casino – has already priced up the potential candidates, two which have ties with to anti-online gambling casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson has said he will spend whatever it takes to stop online gambling and the top eight in the betting are:

CandidateOddsCandidateOdds
Rudy Giuliani3-1Steven Bradbury11-2
Kris Kobach4-1Bill Barr13-2
Scott Walker9-2John Sullivan15-2
Alex Azar5-1Janice Rogers Brown8-1

The Threats to Regulated Online Poker in the US

The biggest threats to regulated online poker in the US come from two of the top three candidates in the betting – although there is no guarantee how any of the candidates will react if they are asked for their opinions on the DOJ´s interpretation of the Wire Act (as Jeff Sessions was in January 2017 during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee). I would certainly refrain from betting on Rudy Giuliani or Scott Walker because you may not be able to collect your winnings!

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has a long history of being chummy with Sheldon Adelson. In 2008, Adelson contributed vast amounts to Giuliani´s presidential campaign and allowed him to fly around the country to attend political rallies in Sands Casino´s Gulfstream G-IV. Then there was the famous “ring-kissing incident” in 2016 when Giuliani attended the presidential debate. If Giuliani is appointed US Attorney General, federal involvement in online gambling legislation is almost a certainty.

Scott Walker´s recent defeat in his quest for a third term as Wisconsin´s governor makes him available for the role of US Attorney General, and he too has plenty to thank Sheldon Adelson for. Adelson not only donated $260,000 to Walker´s gubernatorial campaign, but also gave the state Republican Party a further $650,000. Going back, records show the Adelson “family” to be the largest individual donors to the Republicans Governors Association during Walker´s chairmanship.

The Friends, the Neutrals, and Lyndsey Graham

Advocates of regulated online poker in the US will more than likely be rooting for Kris Kobach – the current Secretary of State for Kansas. Kobach celebrated the repeal of PASPA in June by writing an op-ed for Breitbart in which he said how the Supreme Court´s decision “sharpened the teeth of the Tenth Amendment” and enhanced States’ rights as co-equal sovereigns with the federal government. Kobach would be the least likely candidate to repeal the DOJ´s interpretation of the Wire Act.

Janice Rogers Brown – the well-respected former Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals – is also more than likely to retain the status quo with regard to States´ rights; while the other candidates for the position of US Attorney General have neither any public position on Internet gambling nor a connection with Sheldon Adelson. Of course, they will still have to pass an inquisition before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is where Lyndsey Graham becomes a factor.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is an acknowledged puppet for Sheldon Adelson´s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was Graham who was responsible for throwing the curve ball question at Jeff Sessions last year and, in 2016, he attempted to bury anti-online gambling language into an unrelated federal appropriations bill. Graham´s position in the Senate Judiciary Committee will undoubtedly influence who fills the vacancy for Attorney General.

Graham himself has been suggested as a replacement for Jeff Sessions – which would be the worst possible outcome for advocates of regulated online poker in the US. However, he confirmed yesterday he had zero interest in the job and said he looked forward to working with President Trump to find a confirmable, worthy successor – an ominous statement under any circumstances, and one that – combined with the leading candidates´ connections to Sheldon Adelson – could threaten the future of regulated online poker in the US.

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