Sessions Out Of Court When It Comes To Shutting Down Online Gambling

Written By Martin Derbyshire on July 10, 2017 - Last Updated on January 16, 2023
exterior wall of the Attorney General's office

The booming New Jersey online casino industry is breathing a collective sigh of relief this week. Mostly because it now appears US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is staying out of efforts to shut it down.

Lawmakers dependent on the increasing tax dollars the industry provides must be breathing a little easier as well.

United States Department of Justice spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores told news organization Bloomberg that Sessions will recuse himself from issues surrounding the Federal Wire Act and online gambling.

Sessions hired coalition lawyer

The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling hired lawyer Charles Cooper in its effort to reverse the Justice Department legal stance that gave states the power to legalize online gambling to begin with. Now, it turns out Cooper is not just a longtime friend of Sessions, he’s also his lawyer.

Apparently, Sessions hired Cooper as his personal lawyer during an investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 federal election. As a result, Sessions is now walking away from the coalition’s effort to restore the Federal Wire Act.

The Federal Wire Act and online gambling

In December 2011, the Justice Department released the legal opinion that the Federal Wire Act only applies to sports bets. This paved the way for interested states to begin online lottery sales. For others, it was the path to and legalizing and regulating online gambling. Other states considered similar plans, but only Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey passed online gambling legislation so far.

The New Jersey online gambling market has been the most lucrative. In fact, up to the end of May 2017, New Jersey online casinos generated more than $575 million in revenue. During the same period, the industry paid slightly more than $100 million of that in taxes. Business has been so successful, a huge revenue jump in online gaming in 2016 is being credited with turning around a decade of declines in the Atlantic City casino industry.

Ending the Sessions online gambling threat

However, the fear that the rug could be pulled out from underneath the industry at anytime has always loomed. In fact, Sessions’ confirmation hearings.

He stopped short of saying he would flat out reverse the Justice Department’s opinion. However, Sessions said it shocked him. He also said he planned to revisit the decision and study it carefully.

For many, this was a clear indication that Sessions, and ultimately the Trump administration, had its sights set on ending legal online gambling. The fear was the reversal of the Justice Department’s decision would make online gambling markets in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware illegal, and shut them down. Plus, it would surely stop any further states from following in their footsteps.

Now, it is becoming increasingly clear this is a battle Sessions, and the Trump administration, would all rather stay out of.

Photo by Mark Van Scyoc /

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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