Lawmakers press Sessions over online gambling

Lawmakers press Sessions over online gambling
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight Mobile providers at center of privacy storm MORE (D-Va.) is pressing Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Health Care: Thousands more migrant children may have been separated | Senate rejects bill to permanently ban federal funds for abortion | Women's March to lobby for 'Medicare for All' Acting AG Whitaker's wife defends him in lengthy email to journalist Watchdog: Thousands more migrant children separated from parents than previously known MORE to review a controversial Department of Justice opinion from 2011 that changed its long-held stance on online gambling.

In a letter to Sessions dated July 5, Warner wrote that online gambling sites “are especially fertile platforms for the facilitation of money laundering, collusion and other illegal activities,” citing FBI findings. 

He argued the “potentially predatory nature of online gambling represents a heightened threat to economically vulnerable populations.”

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Sessions questioned the validity of the Office of Legal Counsel's opinion during his Senate confirmation hearing, which stated that the 1961 Wire Act only applied to sports betting.

Sessions told lawmakers he was “shocked” by what he called the “unusual” memo and pledged to take a look at it as attorney general.

He opposed it as a Republican member of the Senate when it was issued five and a half years ago.

“I would revisit it or make a decision about it based on careful study,” he said during his confirmation hearing.

Lawmakers are ramping up pressure on Sessions in hopes the department will reverse the 2011 opinion, which has opened the door to legalized online gambling in various states.

“The OLC opinion appears to be based on legal interpretation alone and does not provide background on the extent to which consideration was given to social, economic and law enforcement implications,” Warner wrote. 

Two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, ranking Democrat Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress Feinstein grappling with vote on AG nominee Barr 5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony MORE (Calif.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal McConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (R-S.C.), have weighed in with Sessions as well.

They wrote to him in May to express hope that Justice will “restore the department’s longstanding practice of enforcing the Wire Act against online gambling by revoking the opinion.” 

Three Republicans, Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (Ark.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news AG pick Barr wants closer scrutiny of Silicon Valley 'behemoths' Grassroots political participation is under attack in Utah and GOP is fighting back MORE (Utah) and Graham, last year introduced legislation to bar financial services companies from processing internet gambling proceeds.

Former Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees Harry Reid knocks Ocasio-Cortez's tax proposal: Fast 'radical change' doesn't work Overnight Defense: Trump rejects Graham call to end shutdown | Coast Guard on track to miss Tuesday paychecks | Dems eye Trump, Russia probes | Trump talks with Erdogan after making threat to Turkey's economy MORE (D-Nev.) was a leading advocate of curbing online gambling before he retired at the end of last year.

Reid, however, backed off pushing for an online gambling ban during last year’s lame-duck session.

Republican mega-donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is a leading advocate for curbing online gambling.

He gave $20 million to a super PAC allied with Senate Republicans last year, The Washington Post reported in September.

The Post noted that Cotton, Lee and Graham introduced their bill a day after Adelson’s contribution became public.