Two senators from the states of California and South Carolina have jointly issued a letter to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Deputy Attorney General’s office calling for federal involvement in state-wide efforts to legalise online gambling.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham have previously written to the DOJ voicing their objections to legalisation efforts in 2014 and have chosen to pen a second letter citing the recent legalisation of online gambling in Pennsylvania as a signal for greater federal involvement in the process.
In the letter, the senators express concern over a 2011 legal opinion issued by the office of legal counsel (a department within the DOJ) in which it “had the practical effect of repealing legislation Congress carefully and thoughtfully enacted in 2006 to ban internet gambling - legislation that was developed over seven years and crafted based on assurances from DOJ at the time that internet gambling was barred by the Wire Act and other federal criminal laws.”
The 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act placed a federal ban on online gaming in the US, but the Justice Department clarified the Wire Act in 2011, essentially allowing states to legalise online gambling outside of sports betting. The letter calls on the DOJ to revisit that opinion.
It goes on to make a number of largely incorrect claims, citing a 2013 letter from the FBI into the possibilities of money laundering in online gambling, asserting that “the FBI has concluded that ‘online casinos are vulnerable to a wide array of criminal schemes,’ including money laundering and ventures by transnational organized crime groups.” The FBI letter actually stated that many of these schemes could be prevented by robust online casinos and regulation at state level.
The letter also states that “Online casinos are already operating across state lines pursuant to compacts, and states are already opening up their online casinos to foreign markets.”
This is a claim which is ultimately disproved by the geolocation requirement used by many states which have chosen to legalise and regulate online gaming, where operators can only be licensed if they maintain servers in their respective state.
In conclusion the senators state that the 2011 DOJ opinion on online gambling should be withdrawn and the matter referred back to congress for clarification and a final ruling.