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US Congressman Wants DOJ To Weigh In On Sports Betting

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on November 20, 2018 - Last Updated on February 15, 2019
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) wants the U.S. Department of Justice to weigh in on sports betting.

At least one congressman is on board with the U.S. Department of Justice weighing in on sports betting in the post-PASPA era.

Last week, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) addressed a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, asking the DOJ for guidance on how to proceed in the current sports betting landscape.

Entering the post-PASPA era

In September, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, which Sensenbrenner chairs, heard public testimony on sports betting.

Following the hearing, Sensenbrenner declared for Congress to do nothing was the worst possible choice.

In his letter to Rosenstein, Sensenbrenner has this to say:

“As you are well aware, until 2011, the federal government consistently interpreted the Wire Act to prohibit all forms of gambling involving interstate wire transmissions – including transmissions over the internet. Revising its own longstanding interpretation, the Office of Legal Counsel issued a legal opinion stating the Wire Act only bans sports betting and does not apply to online gambling.”

Read the full letter here.

It appears the congressman is looking for the DOJ to answer three specific questions:

  • Do you support the 2011 Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion that reinterpreted the Wire Act to permit online gambling?
  • What guidance, if any, is the Department of Justice providing to states that are entering the sports betting realm?
  • What issues do you foresee in sports betting, both legal and illegal, if Congress does not act in response to the Supreme Court’s PASPA decision?

Options for Congress to consider

Additionally, Sensenbrenner laid out three “viable options” Congress could consider:

  • Re-enact a federal ban on sports betting
  • Defer completely to states to regulate the activity
  • Adopt uniform federal standards

“After hearing from a panel of experts representing a broad range of positions related to sports betting, it is clear that Congress has work to do to ensure the public is protected, and any potential for exploitation by criminals is minimized in the post-PASPA era,” Sensenbrenner wrote.

It remains unknown what path Congress or the DOJ will take, but the conversation will continue. Next year, several states are looking to pass sports betting bills. The clock is ticking on federal oversight should it ever make an appearance.

“Because of the breath of issues involved in establishing a federal framework for sports wagering, and the number of interested parties, it will likely take Congress months, if not years, to develop and enact comprehensive legislation,” he wrote.

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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick Garcia is a senior reporter for PlayUSA. Garcia provides analysis and in-depth coverage of the gambling industry with a key focus on online casinos, sports betting and financial markets. Garcia has been covering the US gambling market since 2017. He attended Texas Tech University as an undergrad and received a Master of Arts in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago.

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