U.S. Senators Speak Out Against Online Poker

10 months ago
U.S. Senators Speak Out Against Online Poker
30 Nov

Two U.S. senators, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have penned an open letter denouncing online gambling in response to Pennsylvania becoming the fourth state in the Union to have made it legal.

2017 seemed to be a great year for online poker in America, legislation-wise at least. Last month, the three states where real money online poker was allowed at the time (Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware) agreed on a liquidity deal, meaning that players from those states can now play against each other on the same servers - not just against people from their respective states like before. Then, at the end of October Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf signed a bill into law allowing his state’s residents to gamble for real dollars online, becoming the fourth state that allows for such activities.

Not everyone in the U.S. legislative branch was happy to see the progress. Two senators from the two major parties, Republican Lindsey Graham from South Carolina and Democrat Dianne Feinstein from California have written an open letter to the Trump administration opposing a legal and regulated online gambling market.

“Pennsylvania has recently enacted legislation authorizing internet gambling, and other states are lined up to follow suit,” the letter said. “Online casinos are already operating across state lines pursuant to compacts, and states are contemplating opening up their online casinos to foreign markets. We fear that unless the DOJ promptly revisits its 2011 opinion, our prediction that online casinos could spread across the country could come to pass.”

The bipartisan duo claims that online gambling “preys on children and society’s most vulnerable”, that’s why they take a stance against it.

But some suggest they may be a more nefarious reason for their objection. Between 2013 and 2017, Sen. Graham received over $20,000 in campaign contributions from a company called Las Vegas Sands, owned by billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Adelson owns many land casinos across the United States, so the spread of online gambling may hurt his business.

This is not the first time Graham voiced his concerns about online money wagering - please note that he never spoke out against gambling in land casinos, however. 

During the current U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Session’s confirmation hearing Sen. Graham asked him about the 1961 “Wire Act”. This was a piece of legislation banning people “engaged in the business of betting or wagering” from using  “a wire communication facility” to transfer bets or information about betting. Session’s answer was troubling to people in the online poker community: he said he would “revisit and study” the law and added that he was “shocked” by the Obama administration’s 2011 memorandum that made it possible for three states to permit internet gambling.

The United States Supreme Court is set to hear the case for sports betting at casinos and racetracks in New Jersey on December 4th. Some believe that the decision can substantially hurt or improve the chances of legal online poker in America, depending on how the nine justices will rule.

Hopefully the legal battle for online poker will go better in America than it did in Australia, where the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill was passed earlier this year, banning foreign operators to give online gambling service to Australian citizens.

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Marton Magyar is a Hungarian online poker player and writer who covers the latest in poker news.Read more


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