|The prospect of legal Internet casinos operating from the US has been dealt a heavy blow by the US Justice Department. The Justice Department last Thursday issued an advisory opinion that the federal wire act prohibits communications across state lines or to overseas jurisdictions to place bets.|
The news wasn’t entirely unexpected – Dennis Neilander, chairman of the Gaming Control Board said Thursday that the opinion reaffirms the previously stated opinion of the Justice Department. The Clinton administration had opposed Internet gambling, and Nevada had been waiting to see if that stance had changed under the Bush administration, Neilander said.
The 2001 Nevada legislature had authorized Internet gambling in response to requests by Las Vegas casinos. However, legalization in Nevada was dependent on the position of the federal Justice Department.
Assistant US attorney general Michael Chernoff told Neilander in a letter dated Aug. 23: 'As set forth in prior congressional testimony, the Department of Justice believes that federal law prohibits gambling over the Internet, including casino-style gambling.'
Bill Bible, president of the Nevada Resort Association, was not surprised at the Justice Department’s opinion, which remains the same as when he was a member of the National Gambling Commission.
Bible said the casino industry approached the Legislature to get clearance in case the federal government changed its mind so that Nevada casinos would not be left 'in the dust'. Bible added that there are bills in Congress seeking clarification on the law. He said he expected the federal law to be clarified by the courts, where several cases are pending.
The Nevada Gaming Board will continue to look at other online options available to the casinos, Neilander said.
These could include Internet gambling allowed only within Nevada, online bets placed from hotels adjacent to casinos, or from Palm Pilots within Nevada.