U.S. Senators urge reinstatement of online gambling ban

U. S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Attorney General Eric Holder urging them to return to the previous reading of the Wire Act of 1961, reports the August 1 edition of PokerNewsDaily online. In December 2011, the Justice Department reinterpreted the Wire Act, issuing a statement that the law “no longer bans gambling over the Internet as long as the betting is not on the outcome of a sporting event.”

According to the online report, the three senators say the DOJ opinion “could usher in the most fundamental change in gambling in our lifetimes by turning every smart phone, tablet and personal computer in our country into a casino available 24 hours a day.” The letter expresses their concern that online gambling could “open the door to money laundering and other criminal activity,” and “prey on children and society’s most vulnerable.”

In March this year, Senator Graham introduced a bill to return the Wire Act to its original interpretation. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced a companion bill in the House. Neither Chamber has taken action on the proposed legislation.

The member tribes of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) adopted a set of principles in April 2014 to guide the association’s response to any significant internet gaming legislation that may be introduced in Congress. They include:

1)  Indian tribes are sovereign governments with a right to operate, regulate, tax and license internet gaming, and those rights must not be subordinated to any non-federal authority;

2) Internet gaming authorized by Indian tribes must be available to customers in any locale where internet gaming is not criminally prohibited;

3) Consistent with long-held federal law and policy, tribal revenues must not be subject to tax;

4) Existing tribal government rights under tribal-state compacts and Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) must be respected;

5) The legislation must not open up the IGRA for amendments;

6) Federal legalization of internet gaming must provide positive economic benefits for Indian Country; and,

7) Indian tribes possess the inherent right to opt into a federal regulatory scheme to ensure broad-based access to markets.

MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said Minnesota tribes have not taken a formal position on internet gambling, but generally support the NIGA principles, which underscore federal policies supporting Indian self-determination and the U.S. Constitution’s recognition of tribes as sovereign governments.

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Andy Platto