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December 20, 2014

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Nevada-Delaware online poker deal might have stirred gaming foes to act

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The Associated Press

A sample poker game is played on the Ultimate Gaming website in Las Vegas on April 29, 2013. Ultimate Gaming began offering Internet gambling in Nevada in early 2013.

Nevada and Delaware’s recent agreement to launch the nation’s first collaborative, interstate online poker zone appears to have drawn a backlash from gambling’s opponents in Congress, who are planning to drop a bill rolling back the legal opinion underlying the recent deal.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is planning on formally releasing legislation to roll back the 2011 Justice Department reading of the Wire Act next week, when Congress returns to Washington.

Unlike many recent online gaming bills, the legislation would include no carve-out for online poker; it would simply undo the Justice Department opinion that determined Internet gaming transactions are legal between states where gambling is legal.

That decision, in late December 2011, overturned decades of precedent — tradition that reached back to before the Internet even existed, as the Wire Act was written in 1961.

“For 50 years the Wire Act was interpreted one way, and then two days before Christmas, the DOJ decides to change that interpretation,” said M.J. Henshaw, a spokeswoman for Chaffetz. “The bill would restore the original interpretation of the Wire Act pre-December 2011, the one that was issued by the DOJ.”

But while the Wire Act reinterpretation is now years old, the idea that any states would act on it is only as old as the Nevada-Delaware initiative, announced last month.

Henshaw would not say if the Nevada-Delaware partnership had been the impetus of the bill per se, but did remark: “We were wondering when somebody was going to pick up on this” when asked about a possible connection.

“The issue of Internet gambling, both sides have strong arguments, so if we’re going to allow Internet gambling in this country, it needs to go through Congress,” she said.

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