The state of New Jersey has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department (DoJ). The reason for this is because the federal agency has not responded to its demands that it release documents linking an online gambling crackdown with the lobbying done by Sheldon Adelson.
Billionaire Adelson is the chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp and the biggest opponent of online gambling legislation in America. He personally finances the ‘Coalition To Stop Internet Gambling’ lobbying group.
New Jersey claims that the DoJ is violating the Freedom of Information Act. This is because it has not responded to the state’s request for information in February 2019 regarding the new enforcement policy on online gambling and whether it has links to Adelson.
In a statement, Gurbir Grewal, New Jersey Attorney General said
The residents of New Jersey deserve to know why the Justice Department is threatening to come after an industry we legalized years ago. It’s especially important that we figure out whether this federal crackdown is the result of a lobbying campaign by a single individual seeking to protect his personal business interests.
New Jersey is especially concerned about the move to limit online gambling because the state gets a lot of money from online gambling industry. Reports show that the state gets $353 million in annual revenue from online gambling and another $60 million in direct gaming taxes.
Adelson is known to be a friend of President Donald Trump and his company Las Vegas Sands has spent $280,000 lobbying the federal government. He also donated large amounts to the Republican party and is considered the party’s biggest donor. Adelson is a fierce opponent of online gambling, reasoning that it could lead to increased gambling addiction. His lobbying efforts have spread out nationally, although it has been pointed out that Adelson has made no personal request to Trump.
Sudden Change In Policy Causes Concerns
The policy change that New Jersey is fighting against is the expanded federal prohibition on Internet gambling. According to the DoJ, the U.S. Wire Act prevents all forms of online gambling that requires interstate transactions. This decision will come into effect on June 14 and reverses a previous policy from 2011 that only sports betting is covered by the interstate prohibition.
According to sources, the change in policy originated from the department’s criminal division which is responsible for illegal gambling enforcement. The 2011 policy was supposedly a misinterpretation of the statute in a 23-page opinion issued by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel last year.