Yet another shot has been fired in the ongoing turf war between the US federal government and the individual states over who gets to regulate online poker. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bipartisan non-governmental organization whose mandate includes ensuring the collective wishes of state legislatures are heard in the halls of Congress and which opposes “unwarranted federal preemption of state authority,” has written a letter telling the leaders of both parties in the House and Senate to back off their online poker plans and leave the states to do their job.
In the letter, the co-chairs of the NCSL Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce Committee – Hawaii State Sen. Carol Fukunaga and Alabama Rep. Greg Wren – specifically reference the US Department of Justice’s revised opinion on the scope of the Wire Act. “The recent ruling … has provided states with the authority to determine if they want to legalize intra-state online gambling. The NCSL believes the federal government should respect the DOJ ruling and would oppose any efforts by Congress to preempt state authority over Internet gaming.”
Some might say that the NCSL’s letter is a bit past due, in that federal efforts to pass online poker legislation appear dormant/dead until at least the post-November lame duck session of Congress. Even Caesars Entertainment, who want federally regulated online poker the way a nine-year-old girl wants Justin Bieber, seem to have accepted their prince might never come. Accompanying the release of Caesars’ most recent debt statement, er, earnings report, CEO Gary Loveman referenced his company’s Nevada online poker license application, adding Caesars “will pursue similar licenses in other states as opportunities arise.”
Don’t expect such opportunities to arise in Utah anytime soon. On Thursday, the Utah Senate did the state’s House of Representatives one better by unanimously passing a bill that would opt Utah out of any federal online gambling regulation. A pre-emptive strike against a phantom? But this fight isn’t necessarily over. Given the Mormon Church’s somewhat disturbing fondness for baptizing deceased Holocaust victims so they can get into Heaven, perhaps fellow Mormon Sen. Harry Reid could overrule Utah’s opt-out by baptizing/opting-in Utah back into the federal poker faith. Oh sure, because that sounds stupid…