A bill restoring the ban on online gambling in the U.S. is a step closer to reality.
The bill by Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, will reinstate the policy that federal law prohibits all forms of Internet gambling.
The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 that regulated among others activities online gambling was reinterpreted by the Obama administration in 2011 to cover only sports betting. The new interpretation led to states to allow online gaming within their borders.
But Graham described the Obama administration’s decision as “yet another example of … ignoring the law.”
“Now, because of the Obama administration’s decision, virtually any cell phone or computer can again become a video poker machine,” Graham says. “It’s simply not right.”
The bill is in line with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s efforts to ban online gambling over his belief that it’s a bad bet for his company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., and the rest of casino industry. Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands, has set up a lobbying group called the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
“We are not saying gambling is morally wrong,” says Andy Abboud, Vice President of Governmental Affairs with Las Vegas Sands. “We are just saying that this is something that should not be accessible to everyone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
In response, Adelson’s casino rivals, including Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, have created their own group, the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection.
“What we are in the middle of right now is an attempt by one man to try and get Congress to ban all Internet gaming,” says Tom Russell, director of the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection in Washington, D.C.
Russell says it wasn’t a question of whether or not people like or participate in online gambling, but rather it’s “a question of whether or not they think Congress should be stepping out in front to do a ban on Internet gaming.”
Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware now offer some form of Internet gambling, and eight other states are considering legislation.
The Graham-Chaffetz bill does not contain a grandfather clause that would exempt the three states that already have legalized forms of in-state gambling. Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware would need to come to Congress for permission to continue to offer online gambling.