Lawmakers press Sessions over online gambling

Lawmakers press Sessions over online gambling
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Hillicon Valley: Trump unveils initiatives to boost 5G | What to know about the Assange case | Pelosi warns tech of 'new era' in regulation | Dem eyes online hate speech bill Warner looking at bills to limit hate speech, have more data portability on social media MORE (D-Va.) is pressing Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMueller report shows how Trump aides sought to protect him and themselves Trump: 'I could have fired everyone' on Mueller team if I wanted to Five takeaways from Mueller's report 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 FeinsteinFive takeaways from Mueller's report Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback MORE (Calif.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBarr to allow some lawmakers to review less-redacted Mueller report as soon as next week Collins backs having Mueller testify The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report 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 CottonOvernight Defense: Senators show skepticism over Space Force | Navy drops charges against officers in deadly collision | Trump taps next Navy chief Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal GOP senators introduce bill to reduce legal immigration  MORE (Ark.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDems sound alarm over top DOJ nominee Restore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison Former Democratic aide pleads guilty to doxing GOP senators attending Kavanaugh hearing 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 ReidSanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan Glamorization of the filibuster must end Schumer won't rule out killing filibuster 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.