New Jersey Resolution Asks Trump to Oppose Push for Federal Online Gaming Ban

Posted on: January 26, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: January 26, 2017, 11:32h.

A resolution in New Jersey, presented to the state legislature this week by Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo (D-Northfield), directly calls on the new Trump administration to oppose a federal online gambling ban.

Vincent Mazzo resolution seeks assurances from Trump on online gambling
New Jersey Senator Vincent Mazzeo wants assurances from Trump that he will oppose efforts to prohibit online gambling. (Image: Julio Cortez/AP)

The resolution comes after attorneys general from ten states petitioned the incoming administration in early December to “return to the Wire Act’s original interpretation,” and “seize an opportunity to restore the rule of law and reinstate vital protections for our communities.”  

In 2011, the DOJ offered its legal opinion that the Wire Act of 1960 prohibited remote sports betting alone, and not poker or casino gaming, paving the way for state regulation.

The AGs are essentially asking that the DOJ rescind this opinion and illegitimatize the actions of the states, including New Jersey, that have opted to regulate online gambling.  

But the AGs’ assertion that the “original” interpretation of the Wire Act prohibits online poker and casino games is inaccurate.

Crossed Wires

The Act was introduced by Bobby Kennedy as a means of tackling the revenue streams and organized crime.  It targeted those who used “wire transmissions in interstate commerce” specifically for “bets or wagers placed on any sporting event or contest.” Therefore, the 2011 DOJ opinion was not a “reinterpretation” of the Act but an attempt to restore its original intent.

“This resolution urges United States President Donald Trump, members of President Trump’s administration, and Congress to oppose any measures and actions that would prohibit states to conduct Internet gaming,” reads the exhortation to the Trump administration.

“A federal prohibition against Internet gaming would directly and negatively impact New Jersey by dismantling the investments that the State and Atlantic City casinos have already made to implement and regulate Internet gaming, taking away the economic and employment opportunities already realized by the State and its residents, and foreclosing the future potential of Internet gaming to generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, create high-tech software jobs, and foster valuable business ventures for Atlantic City casinos in this State.”

Sessions in Shock 

It also expresses concern about Trump’s US attorney general pick, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, and his recent declaration that he was “shocked” by the 2011 opinion.

In his confirmation hearing as AG nominee Sessions expressed a desire to “revisit” the opinion. New Jersey Senator Ray Lesniak promised to “take him to court in a heartbeat” if he messed with the current Wire Act interpretation.

Trump has given no indication of his stance on online gambling, although he would seem an unlikely supporter of a federal ban. His candidacy, however, did receive support from billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, America’s number-one online gambling hater.