Sheldon Adelson’s $5 Million Trump Donation Provokes Fears of Federal Online Gambling Ban

Posted on: April 20, 2017, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: April 20, 2017, 12:36h.

Is US AG Jeff Sessions planning to ban online gambling at a federal level?

Rumors, first reported by Gambling Compliance, that Sessions is about to make good on his promise to “revisit” the DOJ’s opinion on online gambling, have been swirling since Monday.

Trump AG Jeff Sessions federal online gambling ban rumors
Is talk of Jeff Session’s intentions to revisit the 2011 Wire Act interpretation cause for alarm or simply rumor? (Image: CNBC)

The revelation on Tuesday in a Federal Election Commission filing that online gambling-hater Sheldon Adelson had contributed $5 million to Trump’s inauguration did little to quell anyone’s anxieties. This is on top of the $11.2 million that Adelson reportedly gave Trump and Trump-affiliated PACs during the election.

The Washington Post recently noted that Adelson donated $20 million to a GOP super PAC called the Senate Leadership Fund last September just days before the Restoration of America’s Wire Act was reintroduced in the Senate.

Sessions “Shocked” by 2011 Opinion

Gambling Compliance reported sources on Capitol Hill saying that Sessions could act on reversing the DOJ’s 2011 opinion on online gambling within days, although other sources have denied this is the case.

The opinion in question was that the Wire Act prohibited internet sports betting alone and not casino gaming or poker, and it paved the way for individual states to legalize and regulate these games within their borders.

Sessions declared himself to have been “shocked” by the opinion when he was quizzed about it during his AG confirmation.

“Apparently, there is some justification or argument that can be made to support the Department of Justice’s [2011] position, but I did oppose it when it happened and it seemed to me to be unusual…” he said.

Asked whether he would take another look at the opinion he said, “I would revisit it and I will make a decision on it based on careful study. I haven’t gone that far to give you an opinion today.”

Ban Would be Un-Trumpist

Still, a federal ban would appear to be an odd one for the Trump administration which defines itself as pro-business and against regulations that stifle business.

In a 2011 interview with Forbes, Trump declared, “[Online gambling] has to happen because many other countries are doing it and, like usual, the US is just missing out.”

Meanwhile, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act is an unpopular piece of legislation for its disregard of states rights, and the National Governors Association wrote to Sessions last month to gently remind him of this.    

“As you review this issue, we encourage you to take note of the current regulatory mechanisms put in place by the states to ensure that consumers and children are protected, and that licensees comply with strict standards of conduct,” wrote the NGA.

“States are best equipped to regulate and enforce online gaming. A ban drives this activity offshore to unregulated jurisdictions, out of the reach of state and federal law enforcement and with risk to consumers.”