Legalized online gambling could be set back all over again in the US courtesy of two legislative bills currently before Washington. If the bills pass, the US would make an about-face away from more liberalized positions on online gambling as in Canada, which opponents argue will only benefit black market and organized criminals in the US.
Two Senators and one member of the House of Representatives are leading the fight to restore previous interpretations of the US Wire Act. The Department of Justice amended the law in 2011 after realizing the language only prohibited online sportsbetting, but made no mention of other forms of gambling like poker, slots, or digital table games.
The reinterpretation of the law allowed states like Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey to legalize versions of online gambling within their jurisdictions, though online sportsbetting remains banned. Other states like Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Illinois, and even California may follow suit, with powerful proponents of online gambling leading the fight to adopt new state laws.
The federal bills would prohibit other states from legalizing online gambling, and could even revoke licenses awarded in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. The legislation is indirectly supported by Sheldon Adelson, owner of many casinos in Las Vegas who opposes online gambling.
Lawmakers in New Jersey argue that a ‘grandfather clause’ could be added to the bills should they be passed, which would maintain online gambling in markets where it is already legal. The case from the Garden State is being made by Senator Bob Menendez, who criticized both Congressional bodies in Washington for failing to adapt to the modern world.
“Blanket prohibition of Internet gaming will empower black market operators at the expense of responsible states like New Jersey, which have invested in creating a secure Internet gaming structure.”