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US Deputy Attorney Again Asked to Reverse Wire Act Opinion

Posted on by John Lathram

Wire ActA letter signed by four Congressmen has been sent to US Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, asking him to reverse the Office of Legal Counsel´s opinion on the Wire Act that led to the regulation of online gambling in Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

In December 2011, the US Department of Justice released a memo stating it was their Office of Legal Counsel´s opinion that the 1961 Wire Act only applied to sports betting, and not to other forms of online gambling. The release of the memo led to Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware quickly passing legislation to regulate online gambling and – just last November – Pennsylvania.

Since the release of the memo, opponents of online gambling have been campaigning to have the opinion reversed. Bills advocating the “Restoration of Americas Wire Act (RAWA)” were introduced into the Senate in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and – this time last year – Attorney General-elect was publicly questioned about the opinion during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Following the passage of legislation to regulate online gambling in Pennsylvania, two long-time anti-online gambling campaigners – Senators Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein – sent a letter to US Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein asking him to “revisit” the opinion, and now four Congressmen have joined the anti-online gambling campaign and again asked Rosenstein to reverse the Wire Act opinion.

What´s in the Latest Letter?

The letter contains a lot of what we have heard before – that an unelected lawyer in an obscure office undermined “carefully and thoughtfully enacted” legislation to ban online gambling. (It was actually Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz, and the legislation the letter refers to is UIGEA – which didn´t ban online gambling, it just made it harder to process players´ deposits and withdrawals).

The letter continues by claiming online gambling fosters terrorism, money-laundering, and under-age gambling; and – because the Internet knows no state boundaries – the Wire Act opinion fails to protect the rights of states wishing to prohibit the activity. It is also alleged the FBI does not have the resources to police online gambling and prevent illegal activities from occurring.

The authors of the letter – Congressmen Dan Donovan, Tom Garrett, Brian Fitzpatrick and Louie Gohmert – call on US Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein to reverse the Office of Legal Counsel´s opinion on the Wire Act so the issue of online gambling can be fully and publicly debated in Congress in order to establish a clear federal policy.

What´s Interesting about this Letter?

What´s interesting about this letter is that two of its authors come from states that have either passed online gambling legislation or are in the advanced stages of considering it. Fitzpatrick serves the 6th Congressional District in Pennsylvania – home to the Valley Forge Casino which was recently acquired by Boyd Gaming Corporation – while Donovan serves New York´s 11th Congressional District.

Neither will have any impact on how online gambling legislation will be applied in Pennsylvania or whether online poker gets the green light this year in New York. However, it has been speculated that both are being funded by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has clearly not given up on his pledge to “spend whatever it takes” to protect his brick-and-mortar casino empire.

In response to the pro-RAWA letter, ten New Jersey Congressmen have also written to Rosenstein, asking him to uphold the Wire Act decision. The anti-RAWA letter does present a much more convincing argument about why the opinion should be upheld and is backed with facts based on judicial decisions and the benefits of regulated online gambling to the states that have regulated it.

Only Time Will Tell How Rosenstein Acts

Putting the two letters side-by-side, an independent observer would come to the conclusion that proponents of regulated gambling have a more reasonable argument that those who want a blanket ban. However, before becoming US Deputy Attorney, Rosenstein was responsible for trailblazing online gambling enforcement in the post-Black Friday era.

As US Attorney for Maryland, Rosenstein´s office was responsible for seizing the domains of Bodog.com, TruePoker.com and eight others. It forced the closure of Doylesroom, indicted two firms for processing gambling deposits and withdrawals, and confiscated funds held in ten gambling-related bank accounts. So, is Rosenstein swayed by reasonable arguments, or does he have a political agenda that will influence his decision? Only time will tell.

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