Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval Tells AG Jeff Sessions to Back Off Federal iGaming Ban

During a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on April 26, Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada argued against federal efforts to ban online gambling.

According to transcripts from Sandoval’s press briefing on April 28, during which he provided local press an account of his discussion with Sessions, the executive running one of just three states with regulated iGaming defended the industry.

Michelle Rindels of the Nevada Independent published her take on Sandoval’s time with Sessions, which took place in Washington D.C. during the Nevada governor’s series of talks with Cabinet-level officials within the Trump administration.

In his recounting of events, Sandoval told reporters that he and Sessions – a longtime opponent of online gambling during his time as a senator from Alabama – sparred over the latter’s critiques of the iGaming industry.

During the Senate confirmation hearings held ahead of his elevation to Attorney General, Sessions was asked about his views on a 2011 opinion issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) – which he would soon take command of – revising the federal government’s stance on the Wire Act of 1961.

That opinion held that the Wire Act – a federal law banning gambling activity over the telephone which was previously used to outlaw all online wagering – only applied to sports betting. By releasing the revised opinion, the DOJ effectively allowed individual states to legalize and regulate their own iGaming industries – a privilege that Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have since exercised.

Sessions responded that he was initially “shocked” at the DOJ’s decision, before stating that he was opposed to the current Wire Act interpretation.

As such, locales where iGaming has been regulated – along with states like New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and others currently considering similar legislation – have a renewed interest in the incoming DOJ chief’s policies on internet-based gambling.

Sandoval attempted to exclude Nevada from such actions, perhaps floating the possibility of a so-called “grandfather” clause which would exempt the three states that have successfully implanted iGaming regulations:

“If there is any action that is taken, that does not include Nevada, that we do a very good job. We’ve been better than anybody in the country if not the world when it comes to the regulation of gaming.”

In defending the right of states to regulate their own online gambling commerce, Sandoval joins a long list of advocacy groups which have expressed their opposition to Sessions’ rumored reversal of the 2011 DOJ opinion.

Among the organizations to publicly oppose a federal iGaming ban are The National Governors Association (NGA), the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), and the North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries (NASPL).

As reported by Online Poker Report and other outlets, the talks between Sandoval and Sessions come amidst increasing focus on the Trump administration’s connection to anti-iGaming interests. President Trump accepted $5 million in campaign contributions from Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands land-based casino mogul and multibillionaire conservative patron.

Adelson previously championed the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) initiative, providing millions of dollars in funding through a lobbying group known as the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.