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Congresswoman Dina Titus, left, talks to North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron during a swearing in ceremony for officials at North Las Vegas City Hall on Wednesday July 5, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Rep. Dina Titus has urged the Department of Justice to continue to allow online gaming after two senators called on the agency to reverse a 2011 legal opinion that legalized the industry.

“In Las Vegas, we have seen that a regulated market is better than an illegal one,” Titus said in a letter sent this week to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “Internet gaming will not go away with a reversal of...guidance; it will merely push consumers into black markets. A reversal will only hurt businesses.”

At issue is a 2011 DOJ Office of Legal Counsel opinion on the Wire Act. Under the interpretation, online sports betting was deemed to fall afoul of federal law, while other forms of online gaming were declared not to violate the law, giving states the option to pursue non-sports online gaming if they so choose.

Since that decision, Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have passed state laws legalizing and regulating forms of online gambling. In 2017, New Jersey signed onto a Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement allowing individuals in the state to play poker at the same virtual table as those in Nevada and Delaware, which first joined the online gaming ranks in 2014.

Titus’ letter came in response to a letter from Sens. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, and Dianne Feinstein a Democrat from California—both veteran members of the Senate Finance Committee—in which they called on Rosenstein to reverse course with respect to online gaming. Some members of the New Jersey delegation sent a letter to Rosenstein in January similar to Titus’s.

In her letter, the Nevada Democrat argued that Graham and Feinstein were exaggerating the effects of online gaming on children.

“The Graham-Feinstein letter uses fear tactics and hyperbolic language to emphasize their distaste for online gaming,” Titus wrote. “While they claim ‘online gaming preys on children,’ in Nevada there are effective technological safeguards in place to verify age and location, and regulators can impose additional requirements to further mitigate the risk of play by minors.”

According to Titus’s office, there is a concern among “major gaming interests” in Nevada about the future of the 2011 DOJ opinion because of possible changes by President Donald Trump’s administration.

Specifically, the gaming industry is concerned about Rosenstein, who oversees gaming issues since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. Sessions’ recusal occurred because he hired a lawyer during his confirmation process who had ties to online-gambling opponent Sheldon Adelson.  

Gaming supporters were heartened by Sessions’ recusal because he appeared to support reversing the 2011 opinion, but now they are concerned about Rosenstein, who has a history of cracking down on online gaming. When he was U.S. Attorney for Maryland, Rosenstein indicted Bodog.com in 2012 for illegal sports gambling and money laundering.

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