Lawmakers press Sessions over online gambling

Lawmakers press Sessions over online gambling
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats see Christmas goal slipping away Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal Liberty University professor charged with alleged sexual battery and abduction of student MORE (D-Va.) is pressing Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Those predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold 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 FeinsteinBiden administration pulls Trump-era approval of water pipeline What's that you smell in the Supreme Court? New variant raises questions about air travel mandates MORE (Calif.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' Bipartisan senators earmark billion to support democracies globally Democrats see Christmas goal slipping away 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 CottonGOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' White House announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics Demand Justice launches ad campaign backing Biden nominee who drew GOP pushback MORE (Ark.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDemand Justice launches ad campaign backing Biden nominee who drew GOP pushback Democrats see Christmas goal slipping away The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown 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 ReidBottom line Voters need to feel the benefit, not just hear the message Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama 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.