Has the US Government Overstepped its Authority?
Before we begin our report about a recent decision from the US Department of Justice, let us assure everyone that Intertops is open and we expect to remain open for many years to come.The American system of laws is quite complex, especially to people from smaller countries with less-defined separation of power between the central government and local governments. The US Department of Justice recently reversed an eight-year-old ruling that had opened the door to legal online poker and other gambling. Some observers now think the matter might eventually end up in the US Supreme Court whilst many others believe that the ruling will never be implemented because the states and the Supreme Court are arrayed against it.A memorandum from the US Department of Justice from November 2, 2018 recently came to light.In the memorandum, the Department’s Office of Legal Council has reversed a previous Department of Justice ruling from 2011 that had allowed states to legalize and regulate online casino gaming including online poker within their jurisdictions. The Justice Department announced that it would allow already existing and fully legal online casinos three months to fully comply with the new interpretation of the law.This means that the Justice Department is on the one hand complying with the wishes of the deep pockets lobbying arm of land based casinos and on the other hand is giving those states that have set up legal online casinos since the earlier ruling from 2011 a chance to reinterpret the new department opinion and to allow such online companies as poker rooms and casinos to continue to offer their games and services to American players.As of this writing, Intertops remains open to American players in all ways. You can be sure that we will join forces with all other online gaming and poker interests to remain open in the US forever. In addition to the business interests involved, the states where online casinos are certified and regulated have a deep interest in keeping online gaming legal.The US Supreme Court in May of 2018 struck down a law that had prohibited sports betting but had allowed four states to keep their sports betting operations going. The Supreme Court ruled such discriminatory law unconstitutional. So, we feel that the ruling by the Justice Department will soon come under fire from online casinos and the states that already benefit from them and that the new ruling will not be used to prohibit online casino gaming in the US.Sheldon AdelsonSheldon Adelson is a Las Vegas casino mogul—he is the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Casino—who has led the fight against all forms of online gambling even as he profits handsomely from legal gambling in his own land based casinos. His anti-online gambling organization is called the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. Given that he owns a big Las Vegas casino, it is clear that Mr. Adelson has a conflict of interest in pursuing the illegality of poker online and all other forms of online gambling. He could not oppose online gambling simply on the merits of the practice so he cloaks it as a direct threat to the well-being of young people. Adelson’s largest ally in the United States Congress, Senator Blanche Lincoln, was quoted after the memorandum became public knowledge that, “Today’s landmark action to rightfully restore the Wire Act is a win for parents, children and other vulnerable populations.” Senator Lincoln also said that the reversal by the Office of Legal Counsel brings the Wire Act back to where it was always intended to be: preventing online gambling.Senator Lincoln is wrong about the original purpose of the Wire Act. At the time, there was no online gambling in any form since the internet had not been invented. Senator Lincoln is trying to apply 21st century technology to a law from 1961. The Wire Act was intended to hurt organized crime which used the “wires” of the time to transfer money. This is a far cry from the many modern methods we have to transfer money today. We also feel that to equate fully law-abiding businesses with the pervasive organized crime activities of almost 60 years ago is a direct insult to the propriety of today’s internet casinos.The Wire ActThis is a US Federal law from 1961 that makes it illegal for gamblers to transmit betting information across state lines. The wire act originally was directed at organized crime, making it a Federal crime to send illegally gained money across state lines. In the ensuing years, the Federal government has sought to introduce into the jurisdiction of the Wire Act other areas of interstate money transfers across state lines.In 2011, the US Department of Justice decided that the Wire Act applied only to sports betting. In the wake of that decision, several states began to legalize online casino gambling within their jurisdictions. Now, by reversing the decision from eight years ago, and in view of everything that has transpired in the area of online gambling in the United States since then, it seems clear that many states will appeal the decision of the Department of Justice and will take the case all the way to the US Supreme Court if need be.Pressure against the new ruling will begin apace as states benefit highly from the tax revenue online poker and casino gaming provide. Intertops remains open in all its gaming operations in the United States.The US Federal SystemIn order to fully understand the controversy, we need to look at the American legal system. There are fifty states in the United States. Each of these fifty states has a large measure of independence from the central government in Washington D.C., colloquially called the Federal Government.The US constitution also defines clearly in which areas the Federal Government has jurisdiction over state governments. One such area is in interstate commerce. A controversial ruling of the US Supreme Court in 1937 redefined the entire concept of interstate commerce from actual commerce, tariffs, and other restraints to trade to include literally everything that might or does cross a state line.The restrictions upon the central government have grown much weaker over the 230 or so years that the US has lived with this legal arrangement. So, the US Department of Justice has felt authorized to define what is and is not in the Wire Act even as the US Congress—the central government’s legislative body—felt authorized to pass the Wire Act in the first place.UIGEAThis law, formally called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act became law in 2006. As is common in Federal lawmaking in the US, it was snuck into a bill that the President, George W. Bush could not veto. So the UIGEA became law. Combining the effects of the Wire Act and the UIGEA, online gambling in the United States came to a virtual halt.It was only in 2011 when the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama ruled in favor of the legality of online gambling that some states began to legalize the practice. Legalizing online gambling got a big boost last year as the Supreme Court ruled that the law that had prohibited sports betting in 46 of the 50 states (the four states that already had legal sports betting were grandfathered into the law) was itself unconstitutional. Now sports betting is legal in a few states with more on the way in 2019; there is a movement to make sports betting legal online in many states. Sheldon Adelson will still profit from legal sports betting in his Las Vegas casino and the network of illegal sports betting bookies will stay in business for some time more, at least until this new decision goes through the US Federal court system or is reversed before it is implemented by the Justice Department.Looking ForwardAt the moment all online poker and all other online gambling in the United States remain open in full. Along with the states that receive tax revenue from us plus the ruling of the Supreme Court that selective legality is unconstitutional, we are fully confident that this assault on everyone’s personal freedom will not succeed and that Americans will be able to play online casino games at Intertops for a very long time.
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