Members of New Jersey's state-level Congress have written a letter to the United States' Department of Justice (DOJ) and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to denounce any plans by the current Trump administration to bring the hammer down on regulated online gambling in states where it is allowed.
Those who are seeking a ban on online betting want to introduce a new piece of legislation known as Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). The lawmakers from New Jersey are encouraging the department not to revoke its milestone 2011 opinion, which states that internet gambling is legal under federal law.
This would prove a massive spanner in the works for the potential legalisation of sports betting in New Jersey, as well as have potential wide-spread ramifications. If federal prosecution is ahead of anyone who accepts payment for gambling, US sports betting is in some major trouble and would need to be re-evaluated by legislators.
A letter was sent to the Department in December 2017 supporting the RAWA movement. This followed a letter written by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham in November, which showed similar support. The December letter, written by four Republican congressmen, asserts:
"With the stroke of a pen, an un-elected 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 eight members of the New Jersey congress and two senators from the state, in response to RAWA-favorability, asked the DOJ to keep its 2011 position that the prohibitions in the 1961 Interstate Wire Act only apply to sports betting. The beginning of the letter, addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, reads:
“We write to urge you to keep in place the Department of Justice’s 2011 opinion holding that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting. 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."
A portion of the rebuttal letter asserts that critics of the legislation were wrong:
“When the Department issued its opinion, critics predicted an avalanche of state legislation “would ‘turn every smartphone, tablet and personal computer in our country into a casino available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week’. These doomsday scenarios have not come to pass.”
Most of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, including both of the state’s US senators signed the letter. The signatories were as follows: Rep Bill Pascrell Jr., Donald Payne Jr., Cory Booker, Frank LoBiondo, Robert Menendez, Leonard Lance, Tom MacArthur, Josh Gottheimer, Albio Sires and Bonnie Watson Coleman.
The letter also applauds the part that regulated internet gambling has had in the resurgence of Atlantic City Casinos, including the resurgence of the Revel Casino Resort, one of Atlantic City's most notable casino resorts that shut down due to financial woes. The letter reads:
“This growth in revenue is in large part due to significant capital investment by the state in online gaming facilities, equipment and technology that makes online gambling 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.”
New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement released figures that consolidate this fact, with regulators confirming gross revenue for 2017 of $245.6m. Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online gambling last year, with several other states including New York, California and Illinois currently exploring a similar route.