Department of Justice Sued by Government Watchdog for 2011 Internet Gambling Ruling

Posted on August 21st, 2015 by Jon Pineda
Department of Justice Eric Holder Justice Watch online poker

Justice Watch, a government watchdog, says Eric Holder’s Department of Justice decision in 2011 regarding Internet gambling was made to benefit companies in which he was associated. (Image: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has come under fire by Justice Watch for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demand regarding its 2011 ruling of the Wire Act that said sports betting through the Internet is illegal, but the law doesn’t prohibit that of online gambling and iPoker.

Justice Watch filed the initial FOIA claim in October, and the DOJ acknowledged receipt of the request in November.

The Office of Legal Counsel confirmed delivery on January 9th, and with the 20 working days plus additional 10-day extension, the DOJ had a hard deadline of February 18th to inform Justice Watch whether it would comply or deny the appeal.

The Justice Department did neither, leading to a lawsuit filed in the US District Court of Washington, DC, seeking, “Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the December 23, 2011 ruling to legalize non-sports betting over the Internet, including but not limited to any records of legal basis for the ruling under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.”

Branching Out

The DOJ, the executive branch responsible for the enforcement of the law in the United States, has certainly sent mixed messages on its stance of online poker, something that Judicial Watch highlights in its press release.

“Up until recently the Justice Department went after off-shore online poker companies operating in the US,” its lawsuit announcement reads. “The feds slammed them with serious criminal charges like wire fraud, money laundering and bank fraud.”

Judicial Watch claims the 2006 passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) by Congress strengthened the agency’s case against the rogue operators including Full Tilt and PokerStars.

UIGEA prevented all cyber bets from taking place, and prevented offshore sites from marketing to players on US soil.

That’s why the organization, whose motto is “Because no one is above the law,” is wondering why in 2011 the DOJ would take such a drastic change, but Justice Watch has its theory that former Attorney General Eric Holder was in cahoots with casino operators.

The Government Accountability Institute discovered that Holder had connections to GTECH Holdings and Scientific Games, two companies that heavily profited off the 2011 decision and both of which had given to Democratic interests and/or worked with Holder or President Obama’s former law firms.

Two Parties, Two Opinions, Zero Solutions

Few could’ve ever imagined how divisive and controversial the subject of Internet poker would become, and though there is some cross-party support on both sides among state lawmakers, the issue is seemingly becoming a partisan topic in Washington, DC.

On the right, Sheldon Adelson, billionaire owner of the Las Vegas Sands who is urging GOP legislators to push the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) through Congress and outlaw all forms of Internet betting.

On the left, there’s Obama’s Justice Department that essentially opened up iGaming to states.

The lawsuit by Justice Watch seems to be retaliation against the president’s ongoing liberal stances. “The executive action ‘legalizing’ online gambling is another example of the Obama administration’s habit of placing politics above law,” Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president said.

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