Ten New Jersey lawmakers are pretty clear on their stance concerning online gambling: It’s legal, and let’s keep it that way.
This strong opinion was the focus of a letter the lawmakers sent to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in response to a doomsday-style letter that well-known senators Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham sent this past November to the DOJ arguing the opposite. The New Jersey letter, posted on Sen. Robert Menendez’s website, included the following argument:
“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 … We respectfully request that you uphold the 2011 decision that the Wire Act does not prohibit online gambling.”
The letter’s mention of 2011 and the Wire Act is a reference to the DOJ’s 2011 decision that online gambling within state lines is not illegal based on the parameters of the Wire Act, which bans gambling across state lines through telecommunications.
Lawmakers argue New Jersey is the prime example of online gambling done right
The DOJ’s 2011 decision actually allowed the online sale of lottery tickets but the underlying interpretation of the Wire Act opened up online gambling via the multitude of online casinos you see in four states, New Jersey online gambling sites included.
Graham and Feinstein’s fear was that the legality of online gambling would lead to a world where just about anyone could gamble via computers, tablets, and phones.
Ironically, it seems like New Jersey would be the perfect place to have pervasive online gambling because, if for no other reason, the state’s regulations are some of the strictest and most stringent in the world, let alone the United States.
Menendez and his colleagues pointed to this fact, saying, “New Jersey has some of the strictest online gaming regulation protocols in the world, featuring technologies which were developed or implemented for state-mandated requirements, including precise geolocation and regulatory monitoring of all operated platforms.”
In other words, gaming regulators have implemented technology that shows them exactly where someone is gambling and if that location is within state lines.
Motives and timing of Graham/Feinstein letter are interesting
The November letter from the dissenting senators was the second such plea. They penned a similar polemic in May and sent it to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said during his appointment process he’d take a look at the DOJ’s decision when he got in office.
Part of the two senators argument is that online gambling will become accessible for kids and those with gambling problems. They also contend that the FBI doesn’t have the resources to monitor the online gambling operations of, in theory, 50 states.
Perhaps what is most interesting about their arguments is the timing. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is reviewing the oral arguments of New Jersey’s appeal, in which the state argues that Congress’ ban on sports betting — the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) — is unconstitutional.
There’s an overall sentiment that SCOTUS will rule in favor of New Jersey, thus paving the way for a PASPA overturn and the legalization of sports betting in any state that wants it.
Why send a letter petitioning for a reversal of the DOJ’s decision when it’s assumed that sports betting will become legal and online sportsbooks will proliferate?
Possible explanations are that the senators truly believe online gambling is a danger, and they’re making Sessions follow through on his pre-appointment process. Or, they might believe that SCOTUS will rule against New Jersey and this is a preemptive strike to further restrict gambling after the SCOTUS decision.