A conflict of interest involving Jeff Sessions leads to some good news for online poker advocates. The new U.S. Attorney General and former Senator is backing away from his involvement in restoring the 1961 Wire Act, a federal law that made it illegal in all 50 states to knowingly use a wire communication to accept wagers.
In September 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice reversed the law, ruling “interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a sporting event or contest fall outside the reach of the Wire Act.”
When the originally passed, internet gambling wasn’t a thing. The bill was put into law decades before the dot com boom, nearly 40 years prior to the launch of the first online poker site, Planet Poker.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Wire Act now should only apply to sports betting. But the Supreme Court hasn’t made a ruling.
Sessions Pressured to Reverse the Ruling?
Sessions, selected by President Donald Trump to become Attorney General in January, has openly stated he opposes online gambling. During his confirmation hearing, he said he was “shocked” with the 2011 ruling, but didn’t say a reversal is a must.
But his boss, President Trump, is a former Atlantic City casino owner. Some felt Mr. Trump’s casino background would help sway Sessions away from taking an anti-gambling stance.
Then there is casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson. The Republican lobbyist donated to Trump’s campaign and then his inauguration.
Adelson has long been one of the strongest online poker opponents. He wants the Wire Act ruling reversed. It’s unclear if Adelson has attempted to influence Sessions on internet gambling.
Attorney General Steps Aside
Bloomberg News reported that Sessions will no longer be involved with any online gambling legislation. Adelson’s anti-online gambling group, The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, has hired the Attorney General’s friend, Sheldon Cooper, to lobby for the organization.
Cooper was already hired as an attorney to represent Sessions against allegations he was involved in collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
To avoid being accused of a different type of collusion, the former U.S. Senator will discontinue involvement in potentially reversing the 2011 Wire Act ruling, according to Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman.
Cooper publicly disclosed his lobbying work on June 15. Despite Sessions’ recusal, the lawyer said he had already completed his work on behalf of the anti-internet gambling coalition. He told Bloomberg the Wire Act reversal needs to be “reconsidered.”
Each state has a right to make its own decision in regards to online gambling. There are currently three states with legal online poker sites in operation (New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware). Other states are considering pro-poker bills. But, if Adelson gets his way, the 1961 Wire Act will apply to wagering online.