You could call it a war of words.
Over the past year, politicians from across the country have penned letters to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) beseeching the judicial body to use the Wire Act to either ban online gambling or deem the Wire Act and online gambling mutually exclusive.
The most recent salvo came from Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, who asked the DOJ to maintain its narrow interpretation of the Wire Act and thus preserve the legality of online gambling.
Her letter comes in direct opposition to a letter Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham wrote in 2017.
This back-and-forth between politicians is of particular interest to New Jersey, whose online gambling market generated nearly $250 million in revenue in 2017 and has grown each of the past four years. A change to the DOJ’s Wire Act interpretation could change NJ’s online gambling market considerably, and thus, the state’s revenues.
The argument: DOJ’s 2011 Wire Act interpretation was correct
Titus addressed her letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. She simply asked that Rosenstein uphold the DOJ’s 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act. They concluded that the legislation’s requirements only applied to sports betting and not online gambling.
The letter also addressed the Graham-Feinstein argument, in which the politicians said that online gambling “preys on children and society’s most vulnerable.”
Titus told Rosenstein these claims were “hyperbolic” and “fear-inducing.”
“While they claim online gaming ‘preys on children,’ in Nevada there are effective technological safeguards in place to verify age, location and regulators can impose additional requirements to further mitigate the risk of play by minors.”
She then went on to point out that the real threat is illegal gambling and that the presence of legal gambling tends to drive out the neer-do-wells.
“There is copious evidence that businesses involved in illegal online gaming have left the regulated online gaming markets in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey,” Titus wrote.
Titus’ defense of DOJ decision second such letter this year
Their letter focused on the wording of the Wire Act, which says that the rules apply to “bets and wagers on any sporting event or contest.”
Lawmakers said it’s clear that the text refers to sports betting and sports betting alone.
In addition to that, they argued that all the devil-in-every-corner arguments that came out after the 2011 decision were overblown. New Jersey’s strict regulations have “proven effective at preventing underage gambling,” the letter said.
2011 decision catalyst for NJ online gambling
When the DOJ ruled that the Wire Act didn’t apply to online gambling, the decision led to Nevada, Delaware, and NJ launching online gambling markets.
New Jersey’s online casinos have proven to be a profitable venture for casinos and operators.
In 2017, the state’s online casinos pulled in $245.6 million in revenue, representing more than 12 percent growth over 2016.
For the first time in the industry’s history, it posted more than $20 million in revenue for 11 straight months from March 2017 to January 2018.
Meanwhile, the state’s poker sites have waffled about in cycles of increased and decreased revenue.