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New Jersey Lawmakers Send Letter Telling DOJ to Preserve Online Gambling Legality

Members of the Congressional delegation from New Jersey wrote to the Department of Justice (DOJ) last week, advising the agency to uphold a current policy which legalizes online gambling on the federal level.

In a jointly written letter dated January 11, a group of 10 Senators and Representatives from the Garden State defended the right of individual states to run regulated iGaming industries.

The letter was signed by a bipartisan coalition of legislators, including U.S. Senators Bob Hernandez and Cory Booker (both Democrats), along with Representatives Frank LoBiondo (R-02), Leonard Lance (R-07), Tom MacArthur (R-03), Josh Gottheimer (D-05), Albio Sires (D-08), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-09) and Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10).

The lawmakers addressed their letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was appointed in January of 2017 by President Donald Trump to serve as the DOJ’s second in command under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

During his own Senate confirmation hearings, Sessions expressed willingness to revisit a 2011 ruling by the DOJ. That ruling reinterpreted the federal Wire Act of 1961, limiting its scope to online sports betting only – thus allowing individual states to legalize other forms of online gambling.

Sessions was forced to recuse himself from any DOJ rulings pertaining to online gambling based on those comments. As a result, Rosenstein has become the political point man for the controversial issue.

In the wake of the 2011 reversal, a lobbying effort led by Sheldon Adelson – the Las Vegas Sands casino mogul and billionaire donor to conservative causes – has been launched to “Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA).”

In December, four Republican congressmen sent a letter to the DOJ supporting the RAWA movement. That missive followed a RAWA-favorable letter written by Senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and Dianne Feinstein (CA) last November.

The December letter sent to Rosenstein included several talking points criticizing online gambling, all of which have been proven to be erroneous through intrastate legalization:

“With the stroke of a pen, an unelected lawyer in an obscure office fundamentally changed our nation’s gambling policy – taking an activity previously confined to distinct, controlled, and monitored physical locations and permitting it to be offered 24/7 on mobile devices, laptops, tablets, and home computers.”

Internet gambling carries with it significant law enforcement implications, as the pervasive nature and anonymity of the internet makes it ripe for exploitation by criminals.”

The New Jersey delegation sought to counter the pro-RAWA messaging with their letter, which pointedly observed that online gambling bans have been proven to be ineffective:

“Placing a blanket prohibition for online gambling would be an antiquated approach to a 21st century issue, punishing states like New Jersey – which have invested in creating a safe and secure online gaming structure – while also permitting black market operators to put millions of Americans at risk.”

Following the DOJ’s reinterpretation of the Wire Act, New Jersey authorized brick and mortar casinos in Atlantic City to operate iGaming platforms – including online casinos, poker rooms, and slot parlors – in 2013. Per the most recent financial reports released by the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), the state’s iGaming industry generated record-breaking revenue of more than $245 million throughout 2017 – good for an increase of 24.9 percent year-on-year.

Lawmakers offered the proven economic contributions derived from legalized iGaming as justification to preserve the current DOJ interpretation of the Wire Act:

“This growth in revenue is in large part due to significant capital investments by the state in online gaming facilities, equipment, and technology that makes online gaming safe and secure.

New Jersey has some of the strictest online gaming regulation protocols in the world, featuring technologies which were developed or implemented for state-mandated requirements, including precise geolocation and regulatory monitoring of all operated platforms. Additionally, players are guaranteed that the online games in the state meet regulatory standards and requirements, thus ensuring that they are protected from cheating and fraud.”

Late last year, Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online gambling. Several states, including New York, California, and Illinois, have explored similar measures in recent years.