NJ Assemblyman Crafts Resolution to Voice Displeasure with Possible Trump Administration Anti-Online Gambling Stance

Well it has certainly been quite the interesting week, hasn’t it? After a string of abhorrent policy decisions and executive orders, the usual nonsense spewing from the mind of our Dear Leader, and repeated demonstrations that the current occupants of the White House have not prepared for governance (I could go on), most of us are sitting here wondering what in the hell is going on. While it is way down the list of problems right now, online poker could be at risk, what with a strongly anti-gambling Vice President and a possible Attorney General who is probably leaning towards RAWA being a good idea. To get out in front of the issue, one New Jersey Assemblyman has taken it upon himself to at least take a small legislative step to push back against a possible anti-online gaming regime.

Last Monday, New Jersey Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo introduced Assembly Joint Resolution 137 which “Urges United States President Trump, members of his administration, and Congress to oppose measures and actions to prohibit states from authorizing and conducting Internet gaming.”

Senator Jeff Sessions Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senator Jeff Sessions
Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The catalyst for AJR137 was likely the Senate confirmation hearing of Senator Jeff Sessions, who is Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General. During his questioning, Senator Lindsey Graham, who had been the led the charge against online poker in the Senate for the last few years, including introducing Sheldon Adelson’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act, asked Sessions his thoughts on internet poker. Specifically, Graham asked Sessions what he thought about the 2011 Office of Legal Counsel’s clarification of the Wire Act, when it declared that it only made online sports betting illegal, not other forms of gambling.

Sessions responded:

Senator Graham, I was shocked at the memorandum – I guess – the enforcement memorandum that the Department of Justice issued with regard to the Wire Act and criticized it. Apparently, there is some justification or argument that can be made to support the Department of Justice’s position, but I did oppose it when it happened and it seemed to me to be an unusual….

When Graham asked Sessions if he would “revisit” the decision, Sessions said, “I would revisit it and I would make a decision about it based on careful study and I haven’t gone that far to give you an opinion today.”

On the bright side, Sessions did say he still needed to study the clarification before being able to present an opinion, but his statements about being “shocked” and opposing the clarification several years ago, combined with his thought that it should actually be revisited (hint: it shouldn’t) has made online poker and gambling fans nervous.

On top of that, Vice President Mike Pence is very anti-gambling.

Mazzeo’s resolution won’t prevent the federal government from putting an end to online gambling, but it at least formally makes the New Jersey legislature’s voice heard, should it pass.

The Joint Resolution briefly hits on the background of New Jersey’s legal, regulated online gambling industry, emphasizing that “Internet gaming has begun to yield benefits for the State’s economy, generating employment opportunities for the State’s residents, and tax revenues for the State’s coffers, and contributing to the revival of Atlantic City as a gaming hub.”

It states that online gambling generated nearly $200 million in casino “win” for New Jersey in 2016, which, in turn, turned into about $29.5 million in gaming tax revenues for the state.

The Joint Resolution goes on to mention Sessions’ comments and how a nationwide ban on internet gambling would hurt New Jersey.

The meat of the bill is as follows:

This resolution urges United States President Donald Trump, members of President Trump’s administration, and Congress to oppose any measures and actions that would prohibit states to conduct Internet gaming. Recent measures in Congress, if pursued by the new Congress and supported by the President and his administration, would prohibit the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including Internet gaming. In his confirmation hearing as nominee for United States Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions indicated his desire to revisit the federal Justice Department ruling that currently allows the states to authorize Internet gaming. These measures and actions would invalidate New Jersey’s implementation of Internet gaming, which the State authorized in 2013 to be conducted by Atlantic City casinos in partnership with their Internet gaming affiliates and under strict regulation and control by the State’s Division of Gaming Enforcement. A federal prohibition against Internet gaming would directly and negatively impact New Jersey by dismantling the investments that the State and Atlantic City casinos have already made to implement and regulate Internet gaming, taking away the economic and employment opportunities already realized by the State and its residents, and foreclosing the future potential of Internet gaming to generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, create high-tech software jobs, and foster valuable business ventures for Atlantic City casinos in this State.

AJR137 is currently in the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee. A hearing on the measure is scheduled for tonight at 7:00pm.


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