Ten state attorneys general have cosigned a letter that urges President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence to consider reinterpreting the Wire Act in hopes of outlawing legal online casinos and poker rooms.
Obtained this week by the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the letter puts internet poker once again under attack in Washington, DC.
“We the undersigned Attorneys General, send this letter to express our deep concern over the current interpretation of the Wire Act and to request your help in restoring the Wire Act’s protections,” the document addressed to the Trump transition team reads. “The anonymity of the internet offers vast opportunities for criminal activity, terrorist financing, and money laundering through online gaming sites.”
Among the 10 state attorneys general is Nevada’s Adam Laxalt (R). The leading law enforcement agent for Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah represent the other attorney general signatories.
Online poker backers believe the attorneys general need to do more research before rushing to such outlandish conclusions. Another review of the letter itself would have also been prudent.
In the third paragraph, the attorneys claim “teenagers make up half of the 16 million people in the US with gambling additions.”
Appeasing the Swamp
A central theme of Trump’s presidential campaign was to disrupt politics as usual. He self-financed his primary efforts and only accepted super PAC money once he was up against the well-funded Clinton machine.
He stood firm in telling voters that he would “drain the swamp” upon his arrival to DC.
“If we let the Clinton cartel run this government, history will record that 2017 was the year America lost its independence,” Trump said in October. “The system is rigged by the donors . . . I’m going to fight for every person in this country who believes government should serve the people, not the donors and special interests.”
But Trump’s largest campaign contributor was Las Vegas Sands billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Online gaming enthusiasts in the US know Adelson for his wishes to overturn a 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act made by the US Department of Justice and essentially block online poker.
He’s used his immense campaign contributions to convince some congresspersons into backing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) authored their respective versions of RAWA, but the bills have been wildly unpopular in either chamber.
The language in the attorneys general letter closely resembles arguments made by RAWA proponents.
Trump’s River Card
It’s unclear if Trump, a man who made many of his billions off casinos, would support an online ban on internet gambling. Trump is thought to be in favor of smaller government and individual state rights, but since his has zero legislative voting history, it’s difficult to pinpoint which precise path the president-elect will take.
In 2014, Indiana Governor Pence urged his state’s congressional delegation to support RAWA. “I believe it is necessary for Congress to restore the original interpretation of the Wire Act that prohibited internet gambling nationwide,” Pence opined.
No single person is thought to have given more to the Trump movement than Adelson, which is why the PPA’s findings that ten attorneys general are working to take iGaming back to Congress is alarming. However, online gaming expansion proponents seemingly have little to worry about unless a major change in opinion occurs on Capitol Hill.