The DOJ Shouldn't Reignite the Fight Against Intrastate Gambling

Townhall | 1/10/2019 | Staff
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Is Michelle Obama Plotting to Take the White House in 2020?

The government has been shut down for over two weeks and is on track to become the longest shutdown in U.S. history. As for how long the current standoff between the Trump administration and the Democratic congress is going to last, your guess is as good as mine. It's a gamble for both sides. That makes it the perfect time to write a column about gambling.

Columns - Department - Justice - Opinion - Finding

As I have mentioned in previous columns, it's been reported that the Department of Justice is drafting an opinion to reverse a 2011 finding from the Office of Legal Counsel that paved the way for states to regulate online gambling as they see fit. Such a move would not just be a blow to states like Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania that have already legalized online gambling, as well as the many others considering such action; it would also go against basic federalist principles.

To briefly provide some background, in 2011 the DOJ responded to inquiries from states with an opinion that finally acknowledged that the Wire Act, which targets "bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest" through "transmission in interstate or foreign commerce," does not prohibit strictly in-state, non-sports-related gambling like online poker.

Reason - DOJ - Wire - Act - Something

The only reason this is at all controversial is because the DOJ previously pretended the Wire Act says something it doesn't. For 50 years, the 1961 federal Wire Act was interpreted to mean prohibiting all forms of interstate gambling. This never made much sense since the statute expressly addresses "bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest." So in 2011, the DOJ looked into the question again and concluded that the act is, in fact, "limited only to sports betting," which logically excludes lotteries and card games.

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