Lawmakers press Sessions over online gambling

Lawmakers press Sessions over online gambling
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' MORE (D-Va.) is pressing Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSarah Sanders to leave White House Sarah Sanders to leave White House Barr compares his return to DOJ to D-Day invasion 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 FeinsteinTrump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE (Calif.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally 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 CottonSenate rejects effort to block Trump's Qatar, Bahrain arms sales Senate rejects effort to block Trump's Qatar, Bahrain arms sales Supporting the military means supporting military spouses MORE (Ark.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale 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 ReidTrump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Impeachment will reelect Trump 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.