Federal prosecutors may have cracked opened the door for individual U.S. states to operate Internet Poker websites without Congress passing online poker legislation.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Dec. 23 that it revised a long-standing opinion on the federal Wire Act of 1961, which made all forms of Internet gambling illegal. The new opinion, sought by the New York and Illinois lotteries, Justice Department attorneys said the Wire Act applies only to sports wagering, not to the sale of lottery tickets over the Internet. The reinterpretation seemingly cleared a path for federally regulated Internet poker websites catering to American gamblers.
The race is on to legalize Internet poker by several states following the U.S. Department of Justice's Dec. 23 ruling that says the Federal Wire Act of 1961 applies only to sports wagering.
State lawmakers are considering two online gaming bills for early 2012. The first bill focuses solely on regulating Internet poker. The second bill looks at other forms of Internet gaming, in addition to poker.
The Nevada Gaming Commission approved online poker regulations on Dec. 22 that will allow legal, licensed and regulated Internet poker to be played within state borders. Gaming equipment manufacturers and casino operators have filed Internet gaming license applications. The attorney general's office is reviewing the Department of Justice's opinion.
Legislation that would allow an online lottery was approved in 2009. The Department of Justice opinion permits the sale of online lottery tickets and reopens the possibility of poker within the state.
In December the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission filed a report outlining how the legislature could regulate the playing of online poker in Iowa. The commission estimated online poker operations could generate between $3 million and $13 million of new tax revenue.
Gov. Chris Christie has indicated his support for a bill to legalize online poker within the state. Christie said he would only sign the bill if it only involves Atlantic City casinos. Last year, Christie vetoed legislation that would have legalized online gaming in the state. He said the law contradicted the state constitution and federal regulation.
The District's council passed a bill in 2010 that allowed pre-approved users to wager money and play online poker on home computers or laptops in certain public areas. But implementation through the D.C. Lottery stalled over concerns of its legality. Council members are reconsidering the program following the Department of Justice opinion.