Monday July 25, 2011 : SEN. LESNIAK REMINDS FEDS ON STATE RIGHTS REGARDING GAMBLING
In a riposte to a Kyl-Reid communication, a New Jersey senator reminds the Attorney General of the right of states to enact online gambling laws
The Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, has received more mail on the internet gambling issue, with New Jersey Sen. Ray Lesniak responding to a letter last week from Congressmen Harry Reid and Jon Kyl.
In their letter, the duo appealed to the AG for the Department of Justice to crackdown on efforts by several states to pass intrastate Internet gambling legalization, claiming it violated federal law, including the Wire Act of 1961.
The letter was widely interpreted as an attempt to halt individual state attempts to legalise online poker or internet gambling following a season that saw such proposals debated by New Jersey, Nevada, California, Florida, Iowa and Hawaii. Many observers felt that the intent of the two politicians was to clear the way for federally approved legalization at some future stage.
States’ rights to legislate are jealously guarded, making this a sensitive political issue.
In his letter to AG Holder, Sen. Lesniak reminded him of states' rights in enacting legalization that regulates activities within individual states. His letter insisted that New Jersey "…should not be impeded in any manner from exercising our rights under our state constitution and under federal law."
Lesniak turned the tables on the Reid-Kyl coalition by pointing out that under the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), intrastate Internet gambling was permissible, and cited the specific passage in the law's text:
"The term ‘unlawful Internet gambling' does not include placing, receiving, or otherwise transmitting a bet or wager where…the bet or wager is initiated and received or otherwise made exclusively within a single State."
The New Jersey lawmaker pointed out that "intermediate routing" of Internet network traffic across state lines by Internet service providers did not violate either UIGEA or the Wire Act, noting that the UIGEA specifically asserts that intermediate routing does not affect the location of the bet, and the Wire Act was intended for criminal enterprises using telecommunications to conduct illegal interstate sports betting, and was not intended for state-licensed and regulated intrastate gaming.
Both Reid and Kyl voted for the UIGEA with the intrastate exemptions included in the final text of the law.
Sen. Lesniak was the prime mover on a bill earlier this year in the New Jersey legislature that sought to legalise online gambling within the state. Despite receiving overwhelming support from the state legislature, the approved bill was controversially vetoed by Governor Chris Christie pending the result of a referendum among state residents.
Taking issue with the Reid-Kyl communication, Sen. Lesniak wrote: "Were you to accept Sens. Reid and Kyl's letter on its merits, you would have to prosecute the Nevada Gaming Board, which this year approved sports betting via mobile Internet within the confines of the state of Nevada. Nevada has also approved other forms of Internet and remote wagering on casino games, poker and sports within Nevada by firms like Las Vegas Sands and Station Casinos.
"For that matter, New Jersey and 37 other states would also have to be prosecuted for permitting online wagering on horse races, which has existed for years."
The pro-online gambling action group iMEGA has made Sen. Lesniak's letter available to the public here: http://www.imega.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/holder-letter-revised.pdf