New Jersey AG Demands Answers From DOJ Regarding Billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Wire Act Influence

Posted on: May 8, 2019, 08:26h. 

Last updated on: May 8, 2019, 08:26h.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is suing the Department of Justice for allegedly failing to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests over the federal agency’s recent Wire Act interpretation.

New Jersey online gambling Wire Act
New Jersey’s chief lawyer Gurbir Grewal has reason to believe a billionaire casino owner is behind the DOJ’s decision to reinterpret the Wire Act. (Image: Michael Karas/

Filed in the US District Court in New Jersey, Grewal is seeking information on whether lobbyists working on behalf of Las Vegas Sands billionaire Sheldon Adelson successfully prompted the Justice Department to reevaluate the agency’s 2011 interpretation of the federal law. DOJ Office of Legal Counsel Assistant AG Steven Engel concluded in the agency’s 2018 opinion that the Wire Act bans the transmission of not only interstate wagers relating to sports betting – but all forms of gambling.

The reinterpretation threatens interstate lottery games like Powerball and Mega Millions, online gambling, and cross-state internet poker pooling.

Online gaming is an important part of New Jersey’s economy, and the residents of New Jersey deserve to know why the Justice Department is threatening to come after an industry we legalized years ago,” Grewal said in a release. “It’s especially important that we figure out whether this federal crackdown is the result of a lobbying campaign by a single individual seeking to protect his personal business interests.”

Adelson – estimated to be worth $38 billion by Forbes – has been on a personal mission to ban online gambling since the same Office of Legal Counsel essentially gave states the right to dictate their own laws on intrastate betting. While the casino tycoon says he has a moral motive, believing that online gambling puts casinos into pockets of anyone with a smartphone, Grewal opined that the expansion of online gaming is simply “a threat to his brick-and-mortar casino businesses.”

Adelson Lobbying

Campaign finance records show that it isn’t a great stretch of the imagination that the DOJ under President Donald Trump’s administration might have agreed to take another look at the Wire Act in order to at least partially please Adelson. The billionaire has been the Republican Party’s largest donor in each of the last two election cycles, giving more than $200 million to GOP efforts.

Trump recognized Jerusalem as “the true capital of Israel” and moved the US embassy there, something that Adelson’s Republican Jewish Coalition has long sought. Adelson’s wife Miriam was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Trump for being “a committed doctor, philanthropist, and humanitarian.”

Las Vegas Sands spent $280,000 in lobbying fees in the first quarter of 2019, with $30,000 paid to the Lincoln Policy Group for online gambling issues.

Live Wire

State lotteries, attorneys general, casino executives, and congressional and state lawmakers are all in search of a clearer explanation from the DOJ over the new Wire Act interpretation. For the time being, the federal agency says there is no threat of prosecution until the department gives “these issues the deliberate consideration they deserve.”

The DOJ brass has been a revolving door. The latest to depart the agency is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man who agreed to direct the Office of Legal Counsel to review the Wire Act last year.

Adelson is battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 85. The billionaire has missed the company’s last two earnings calls.