On Tuesday, a confirmation hearing took place involving Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, the individual who was nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to take over as the United States Attorney General. As part of the hearing, Sessions discussed online poker gaming regulation, stating that he was shocked at the decision by the Obama administration’s reading of the law and plans on spending time and resources to revisit the ruling by the Department of Justice in 2011 in regards to the 1961 Wire Act.
In 2011, the DOJ changed the interpretation of the Wire Act to allow states the option to legalize and regulate online poker gaming. Comments made by Sessions now has those in the poker community nervous about what could happen in the future. The Poker Players Alliance has been heavily involved in the online poker industry of the United States, and commented after the hearing involving Sessions on their position.
PPA Executive Director, John Pappas, stated that ‘a reversal of the Wire Act would be a radical departure from the precedent given to the independent and legally based opinions generated by DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel’. The PPA continued by stating that they trust Sessions will adhere to the longstanding practice of giving great weight to any relevant past opinions when he reviews the position involving the Wire Act. Giving weight to OLC decisions made prior is something that the Bush as well as Obama administrations advised in publishing the Best Practices memorandums.
A reversal of the re-interpretation of the Wire Act does not require the approval of Congress. Such a reversal would go against a long-standing tradition within the DOJ, something that poker proponents do not wish to see. If a reversal was made, Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware would be affected as they already offer online poker gaming. Other states are looking into offering such gaming including Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts, New York and more. On top of poker gaming, other areas would be affected including online lottery sales, an option that many states already offer.
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