Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are asking the US Department of Justice to revisit and withdraw its 2011 legal opinion on the Federal Wire Act that paved the way for the first four states in the country to legalize and regulate online gambling.
The two senators sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein on Nov. 21 claiming that unless the DOJ revisits the opinion, they predict online casinos will soon “sweep across our country.” Feinstein and Graham want the question of whether online casinos should be permitted in the US to be left up to Congress to decide, and not individual states.
The Federal Wire Act and US online gambling
In December 2011, the DOJ released a legal opinion that 1961 Federal Wire Act only applies to sports betting. This paved the way for individual states to begin to consider online lottery sales, and ultimately, online gambling legislation.
Since that time, four states have passed online gambling legislation. There are legal online gambling markets in Delaware and Nevada, in addition to New Jersey online casino sites. In October 2017, Pennsylvania became the fourth state to enact online gambling legislation.
This latest alarmist letter from Feinstein and Graham is a follow-up to one from three years ago in which the two wrote the DOJ opinion could turn “every smartphone, tablet, and personal computer in our country into a casino available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
The letter also claims online gambling preys upon children and society’s most vulnerable. However, it contains no evidence backing up that statement.
The letter contains at least one one glaring error where Feinstein and Graham claim the DOJ opinion “reversed 50 years of interpreting the Wire Act to prohibit all gambling online.” Both the internet and online gambling are not yet 50 years old.
The letter also seems to stand behind the Federal Bureau of Investigation conclusion that online casinos are vulnerable to a variety of criminal schemes, including money laundering. However, those claims from the FBI in 2013 appear to be referring to offshore online gambling operations, not online casinos legalized and regulated by US states.
Bullish on online gambling
While the letter is intended as a move against states which have legalized and regulated online gambling in the US, the online gambling industry can take solace in how bullish Feinstein and Graham appear to be on the internet casino market.
The letter suggests other states are lined up to follow suit after Pennsylvania passed online gambling legislation. It also calls the internet online gambling industry robust and predicts online gambling will soon sweep the nation.
Efforts rewrite the Federal Wire Act to ban most forms of online gambling have been around since 2014. Bills have been introduced in both chambers of Congress, but failed to advance.