Adelson’s iGaming War Takes a Hit

The battle to ban iGaming in the U.S. started by Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson stalled last week when Attorney General Jeff Sessions (l.) was forced to recuse himself from any review of the 2011 DOJ memo that largely legalized the wagering.

The Coalition Against Internet Gambling, funded principally by Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson, ran into a hurdle last week. Encouraged by Attorney General Jeff Sessions who said during his confirmation hearings that he would review the 2011 Department of Justice memo that effectively legalized online gaming and lottery, the coalition hired a lobbyist to urge Sessions to revoke that memo.

But the lobbyist the group hired, Charles Cooper, a longtime friend of Sessions, turned out to be a problem. It seems Sessions hired Cooper as his personal attorney following the congressional investigations of Russia’s election influence. That put Sessions into conflict on the two issues, and he recused himself from any consideration of the memo’s status.

“There’s been a change in administrations, and that’s when fresh looks take place,” Cooper told Bloomberg News about the DOJ memo. “This particular legal issue has certainly struck us as sufficiently questionable that it ought to be reconsidered.”

Sessions seemed to indicate that he considered the memo questionable when he said during the confirmation hearings that he was “shocked” when it was issued in ’11.

“I would revisit it and I would make a decision about it based on careful study, and I haven’t gone that far to give you an opinion today,” he told the Senate committee.

The memo concluded that online gaming and lottery were not covered under the 1961 Wire Act, and contended on interstate sports betting was barred by the law.

Should the DOJ reject the memo, there is no consensus on what the consequences would be either to the states that currently offer iGaming or states now considering it, such as Pennsylvania, where Adelson’s company currently owns Sands Bethlehem. LVS is funding campaign to stop a high gambling expansion bill, but has focused not on online gaming but on legal slots in bars and restaurants.

Without Sessions, the DOJ gave no indication if and when the agency would review the memo.

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