Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, the minority whip, are questioning how the Justice Department enforces policy regarding online gambling.
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Reid, D-Nev., and Kyl, R-Ariz., ask the department to reiterate its position that federal law prohibits gambling over the Internet, including intrastate gaming, which could affect lotteries.
The two Senate leaders also ask why the U.S. attorney in New York on April 15 secured indictments against the operator of an online gambling site after taking no action for several years.
The U.S. attorney in Baltimore unveiled additional indictments at the end of May.
“This lack of activity by law enforcement led to a significant and growing perception that operating Internet poker and other Internet gambling did not violate U.S. laws, or at least that the Department of Justice thought that the case was uncertain enough that it choose not to pursue enforcement actions,” according to the letter dated July 14.
Kyl, who will retire from office next year, has recently softened his opposition to online gambling, while Reid was the architect of December’s federal poker bill, which failed to make it into law.
Kyl’s website contains a policy statement that might open the door to more Republican support for Reid’s proposed legal framework for online poker.
“Efforts to carve out an exception for games like poker, which many believe is a game of skill, may be considered later this year,” Kyl said on his website. “Until I have the chance to review them, I cannot make a judgment about their merits; but I will consider them carefully as long as they leave in place the broader proscriptions against online betting.”
He said his opposition to legalized Internet gaming in the past was due to suggestions that it fosters problems unlike any other forms of gambling.
“Online players can gamble 24 hours a day from home; children can play without sufficient age verification; and betting with a credit card can undercut a player’s perception of the value of cash — leading to possible addiction and, in turn, bankruptcy, crime, and even suicide,” Kyl said.
However, both lawmakers asked the Justice Department to “pursue aggressively and consistently those offering illegal Internet gambling in the United States.”
It’s unclear what the effect this letter will have on the bill introduced in June by Rep. Joe Barton. The Texas Republican and senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee would allow online poker sites to register in a state where gambling is already allowed, including Nevada.
His bill would also create a new regulatory body to oversee Internet poker at the federal level.
Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at
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