Lawmakers press Sessions over online gambling

Lawmakers press Sessions over online gambling
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFormer Virginia House speaker Kirk Cox mulling run for governor Mini-exodus of Trump officials from Commerce to lobby on semiconductors Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding MORE (D-Va.) is pressing Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign 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 FeinsteinDemocrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks Mini-exodus of Trump officials from Commerce to lobby on semiconductors Doug Collins questions Loeffler's trustworthiness in first TV ad MORE (Calif.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamObama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Trump putting TikTok ban on hold for 45 days: report This week: Negotiators hunt for coronavirus deal as August break looms 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 CottonTom Bryant CottonOn The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Brawls on Capitol Hill on Barr and COVID-19 Hillicon Valley: Tech CEOs brace for House grilling | Senate GOP faces backlash over election funds | Twitter limits Trump Jr.'s account MORE (Ark.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeTea Party rises up against McConnell's trillion relief plan Hillicon Valley: Twitter bans thousands of QAnon accounts | Bipartisan support grows for election funds in Senate stimulus bill | Senate committee advances bill to ban TikTok from federal devices Senators demand answers on expired surveillance programs 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 ReidKamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' Obama calls filibuster 'Jim Crow relic,' backs new Voting Rights Act bill McConnell warns Democrats not to change filibuster rule 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.