Invest Not Gamble

Brian Sandoval, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, has decided to do plenty of legal homework before seeking a meeting with the U.S. Department of Justice to discuss the legality of Internet gaming. Meanwhile, the Commission will hold a two-day seminar next week that will be devoted to technical and legal issues that surround online gaming.

Last month, Sandoval discussed Nevada’s new interactive gambling legislation at a session of the Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo in Toronto.

“The first thing that we as regulators will have to do,” he said then, “is meet with the Department of Justice to determine their interpretation of the federal law – specifically the Wire Act – and its applicability to the Nevada law. We anticipate that we would be meeting with (U.S. Attorney General) Mr. Ashcroft or his representative in the very near future to ascertain some of the answers to those questions.”

No such meeting has occurred, however, and Sandoval told RGT Online Friday that he doesn’t want to have such a meeting “without having the benefit of having done our own independent legal research.”

This will take some time. First of all, the Commission has tasked the Nevada Attorney General’s office with a “blue-sky analysis” – researching the laws in all 50 states with regard to interactive gaming. Second, the Commission will retain “an out-of-state law firm to do the federal analysis, with regard to the federal law and its applicability to the Nevada legislation,” Sandoval said.

The Commission is receiving resumes from several large East-coast law firms, he said. A review of the resumes has not yet begun, but Sandoval hopes the Commission will select one by the end of September.

“We felt it would be the responsible way to go to have some of these legal opinions in hand before we had a meeting with the Justice Department,” Sandoval explained.

Those opinions, he added, will be influenced by the result of an appeals court decision on a ruling in February by a federal judge in New Orleans. U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. explicitly said in that ruling: “At this point in time, Internet casino gambling is not a violation of federal law.” He said the 1961 federal Wire Act only applies to sports betting.

While Duval’s decision is not binding in other districts, it’s significant because he ruled in cases that had been consolidated from numerous suits filed in several districts. Sandoval said oral arguments for the appeal of Duval’s ruling have not been scheduled yet.

Nevada’s move to legalize interactive gambling is not likely to be welcomed at the Justice Department. Under the Clinton administration, the Department believed the Wire Act, perhaps with modifications, was sufficient to prosecute Internet casino gambling operations. That was the reason it gave for opposing Congressional efforts to specifically prohibit Internet gambling.

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