Like many of you, I watched Attorney General William Barr’s deceptive testimony at the recent Senate hearings on the Mueller Report and also gained some insight into the current dysfunction in our DOJ (Department of Justice).
Depending on your viewpoint, you might say the whole debacle is terrible (or not) for the state of our union, but what does it have to do with poker? Well, we’ve written previously regarding the recent reversal of the “1961 Interstate Wire Act” and its potentially negative impact on the future of legalized online poker. Basically, the DOJ’s OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) issued a new opinion in January in which they reversed their 2011 opinion (that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting) and stated that it applies to online poker as well.
At the time, we took solace in the fact that this was not law but only opinion and would be fought out in the courts. Retired New Jersey state senator Raymond Lesniak, who had successfully spearheaded New Jersey’s online poker legislation in the past, readied for battle, saying “It looks like I will have to go to court again to straighten out the Justice Department’s overreaching on states’ rights.”
Unfortunately, that was before I’d fully grasped the “politics” and the primary “players” involved in this battle. From what I’ve observed, the DOJ and its head honchos are there to do Trump’s bidding, are not too concerned with laws vs. opinions, and big money is the deciding factor in most decisions. In fact, an Op-Ed published in USA Today called the Wire Act reversal “corrupt, unethical, and legally bankrupt.” That was because many industry observers believed the reversal was strongly influenced by anti-online gambling billionaire and Las Vegas Sands casino owner Sheldon Adelson, a long-time patron of the Republican Party and major contributor to Trump’s presidential campaign.
The bottom line is that no one knows for certain how the DOJ’s opinion will play out . . . and uncertainty can be a momentum crusher. The president of the Poker Alliance, Mark Brenner, was quoted as saying: “Make no mistake, DOJ’s Wire Act reversal was a well-coordinated attack against the regulated iGaming, sports wagering, and poker industries, carried out by Las Vegas special interests seeking to protect their own bottom line,” he said. “In doing so, they are trampling on states’ rights and individual rights, while undermining a growing bipartisan coalition of Governors and legislators across the country who are responsibly modernizing gaming in their respective states. Perhaps worst of all, this move will expose more innocent consumers to a gambling black market that is beyond the reach of law enforcement and regulators.”
Whatever the outcome, it will be a long time coming and we’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, sit back at your poker table, relax and wait for the dealer; your next hand may be quads!