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Do You Support Making All Online Gambling Illegal?

Should all online gambling be illegal?

by Countable | 1.17.19

What’s the story?

  • The U.S. Justice Department has decided to expand the federal prohibition on internet gambling to include all online gambling, not only sports betting.
  • This reverses the DOJ’s 2011 position that the U.S. Wire Act of 1961 only barred online sports betting.

What does the 1961 Wire Act actually say?

  • The federal law specifically prohibits transmission of wagers and related information across state lines.
  • The Wire Act, § 1084(a), seemingly makes it clear that its intended targets are “sporting events or contests”:
Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Who will be impacted?

  • Lotteries. (New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, and Michigan have online lottery operations.)
  • Online casinos (Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have internet casino markets.)
  • Online sports betting.
  • Fantasy sports.

What are both sides saying?

  • The restriction had been long-sought by GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who controls one of the world's largest casino empires. Former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), speaking on behalf of the Adelson-backed "Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling," praised the decision:
"Today's decision seamlessly aligns with the department's long-standing position that federal law prohibits all forms of internet gambling, as well as with Congress' intent when it gave law enforcement additional tools to shut down the activity through the overwhelmingly passed Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006," she said.
  • “Legally, the decision was not ambiguous,” said Las Vegas attorney Kate Lowenhar-Fisher of Dickinson Wright. “It was a tortured effort to interpret the Wire Act to include all forms of betting. It was an absurd grammatical exercise.”
  • Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus (D) agreed, saying the ruling appears to be politically motivated.
“Though the full impact of this reckless DOJ reversal remains to be seen, we can be certain that it will inject uncertainty into a well-regulated market and push consumers back into the black market,” Titus said. “Unfortunately, the Trump Administration only supports states’ rights when it is politically convenient.”

What do you think?

Do you support making all online gambling illegal? Some? Is it time for Congress to revisit the Wire Act? Take action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below. 

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: Jim Makos via Flickr)

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