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NCSL Approves Resolution Opposing US Federal Online Gaming Regulation

The United States-based National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has approved a formal resolution protesting federal-level efforts to implement a ban on online gaming.  The approval of the resolution occurred as part of the bipartisan legislative group’s annual legislative summit, which was held last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

ScreenHunter_22 Aug. 26 16.41The NCSL’s brief resolution essentially demands that federal legislators adhere to long-standing tradition of “states rights” sovereignty when it comes to gambling matters.  The NCSL, the largest such gathering of United States’ state-level legislators, issued its statement in response to twin federal bills proposed by US. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and US. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) that seek to reinterpret the 1961 Wire Act to include all forms of gambling, rather than just the sportsbetting activities to which that bill originally applied.

A 2011 memorandum issued by the US Department of Justice clarified that the Wire Act applied only to sportsbetting, despite the law being wielded for decades by US-based law enforcement agencies as a tool against activities far beyond the Wire Act’s intended scope.  Both the Wire Act and the 2011 DOJ memo were specifically mentioned in the NCSL resolution, which reads as follows:

WHEREAS, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) believes the federal government must respect the sovereignty of states to allow or to prohibit Internet gambling by its residents; and

WHEREAS, the 2011 ruling by the United States Justice Department on the Federal Wire Act of 1961, 18 U.S.C. §1084, clarifies that intra-state online gambling is lawful.  Any effort by Congress or the administration to reverse this ruling is preemptive and diminishes the flexibility of state legislatures to be innovative and responsive to the unique needs of the residents of each state; and

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that NCSL requests Congress consider the perspective of the states as it examines this issue and asks that it involve state legislators in any federal efforts that seek to reform the regulation of online gaming.  NCSL strongly opposes any effort by the federal government to overturn the Justice Department’s ruling or consideration of legislation overruling state authority by legalizing or regulating gambling at the federal level. NCSL also requests that federal lawmakers be respectful of state legislatures that prohibit online gaming or other forms of gaming within their state.

The NCSL’s resolution regarding online gambling was one of several issued by the organization after approval by attendees.  The week-long conference included more than 100 panels on a wide range of legislative topics, including one dedicated to online-gaming concerns.  The specific panel that discussed the resolution and other matters was titled “All Bets Are Off: The Battle Over Online Gambling,” and included Sheldon Adelson / Las Vegas Sands Corp. mouthpiece Andy Abboud as a mouthpiece against the resolution.  Adelson and LV Sands have already been identified as the funders and original drafters of the Graham and Chaffetz bills, which in the process of intruding on states’ rights would also strengthen long-term prospects for LV Sands’ existing land-based, casino/entertainment empire.

Odds remain long that online gaming regulation designed to ban all forms of gambling, in addition to betting on sports, remain long, despite the millions already sunk into the fight by Adelson.  State-level interests eye a future implementation of various forms of online gambling as a possible revenue enhancer for otherwise cash-strapped state budgets, and the bills as envisioned by Adelson’s forces would necessarily involved a rollback and usurpation of states’ right.

While Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware are already well known to poker readers as the three states where online poker has been formally approved, Illinois and New York have also approved online lottery sales, which would also be blocked under the Graham-Chaffetz measures.  The NCSL resolution fully acknowledges that some states might not want to approve online gambling; Utah, for example, has already banned the activity.

 

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