National Governors Association, NV Gov. Brian Sandoval Challenge AG Sessions Over RAWA Talk

Updated: May 3rd, 2017 by Dev Ops

Newly-installed US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ reported consideration of a reversal to the landmark 2011 opinion by former USAG Eric Holder is drawing plenty of political heat, particularly in the form of a pushback from a majority of individual US states’ governors.  Among the governors pushing back against pro-RAWA prospects: Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

U.S. Attorney General and presumptive RAWA supporter Jefferson Beuaregard Sessions III.

Last month, the National Governors Association (NGA) sent a letter to Sessions over his reported consideration of a reversal of Holder’s 2011 opinion, which opened the door for states to allow online gambling.  Holder’s opinion clarified the widespread legal belief that the US’s 1961 Wire Act applied only to sports betting.  However, rabid anti-gambling forces have portrayed Holder’ opinion as an extra-legal act, and many of them have joined the narrow band of political support for the Sheldon Adelson-funded “RAWA” (Restore America’s Wire Act) legislation.

The NGA’s letter doesn’t mention RAWA specifically, but instead couches its language as a “concern” over Sessions’ reported look at the topic.  Not stated (but certainly implied) is that governors and their state governments view any federal-level intrusion on social behaviors, including gambling, as an unwarranted and unconstitutional violation of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves power in such matters for the states themselves.  That’s why liquor and tobacco laws, land-based gambling laws, speed limits, marijuana-use laws and much, much more vary from state to state within the US.

Here’s the text of the recent NGA letter:

The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

The nation’s governors are concerned with legislative or administrative actions that would ban online Internet gaming and Internet lottery sales.

The regulation of gaming has historically been addressed by the states. While individual governors have different views about offering gaming—in a variety of forms—within their own states, we agree that decisions at the federal level that affect state regulatory authority should not be made unilaterally without state input. A strong, cooperative relationship between the states and federal government is vital to best serve the interests of all citizens.

As you review this issue, we encourage you to take note of the current regulatory mechanisms put in place by the states to ensure that consumers and children are protected, and that licensees comply with strict standards of conduct. States are best equipped to regulate and enforce online gaming. A ban drives this activity offshore to unregulated jurisdictions, out of the reach of state and federal law enforcement and with risk to consumers.

The nation’s governors stand ready to discuss this issue with you further.


Governor Terry McAuliffe
Chair, National Governors Association

Governor Brian Sandoval
Vice Chair, National Governors Association

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval’s presence as the NGA’s vice chair is telling, and Sandoval is more immersed in this fight than most of his fellow governors.  In large part, Sandoval is leading Nevada’s fight against RAWA, since the state’s Attorney General, Adam Laxalt, has joined a small minority of governors supporting the call for RAWA legislation.  Laxalt has long since been corrupted by RAWA funder Sheldon Adelson, who also sunk millions into Laxalt’s narrow election win a couple of years ago.

Laxalt’s RAWA support is thus a blatant quid pro quo paid for by a small slice of Adelson’s billions;; Laxalt’s sister also works for Adelson’s main political lobbying firm.  So its up to other Nevada politicians, including Sandoval, to fight crony capitalism, note that legalized and regulated online gambling is far safer for consumers than the alternative, and continue battling RAWA-style moves.

Sandoval, in fat, met directly with Sessions on the topic last week.  Sandoval’s prior background before his election as Nevada’s governor included a prominent stint with the Nevada Gaming Commission, and Sandoval was able to relay first-person information about the reality of Nevada’s legalized online gambling market, including the truth that to date, no underaged player has succeeded in opening and funding a real-money account on a Nevada online site.

Sandoval also reprotedly asked Sessions that Nevada be excluded from any such RAWA-style edict that Sessions might choose to issue.  It’s likely that other states would challenge such an attempted reversal of the Holder opinion, anyway; New Jersey and Delaware are the other two US states to have legalized and implemented online gambling.  Several other states have authorized online sales of their own state-run lotteries as well… though notably not Nevada, where all lotteries are illegal.

Whether the state-level headwinds deter Sessions from attempting to reverse Holder’s 2011 opinion remains to be seen.  Sessions is not regarded as a particularly ethical politician; his two years as Georgia’s state Attorney General were marked by several decisions widely seen as open racism, and his subsequent stint as a US Senator was, by and large, an embarrassment.  Sessions’ religious and political hypocracy has always played well in the behind-the-times US South, however, and as politician, he’s always followed the money.

RAWA-bill funder Adelson has plenty of that, including an extra $5 million recently revealed to have paid for much of Donald Trump’s inauguration.  And it’s Trump who nominated the ridiculously unqualified Sessions to be the US’s current AG.  Thus does money talk, against the wider will of the people, and it’s why RAWA-related concern has spiked of late.

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