Congressmen Write to Rein In Justice Dept.

11 August 2008

Two United States congressmen have written Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to request the Department of Justice suspend all prosecutorial and enforcement action against online gambling companies that targeted America prior to October 2006.

Robert I. Wexler and Stephen I. Cohen, Democrats of Florida and Tennessee respectively, in separate letters have once again drawn attention to the Justice Department, which maintains that Internet wagering -- in all its forms -- violates the federal Wire Wager Act of 1961.

Mr. Wexler and Mr. Cohen, however, made the well-trodden argument that the Justice Department, which Mr. Mukasey oversees, has selectively settled with, and initiated legal action against, a certain contingent of online gambling companies -- namely, European companies that withdrew from the American market after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act took effect nearly two years ago.

"You are also aware of your Department's repeatedly stated view that all forms of Internet gambling are unlawful in the United States," Mr. Cohen wrote in a letter dated July 29. "Yet, US companies continue to operate today, under the noses of US authorities, with impunity."

While it is unclear what motivated the letters, the congressmen also took issue with the United States' decision to withdraw commitments from an international trade agreement covering, among other things, remote gambling services.

This decision was made after the World Trade Organization decreed United States law covering remote gambling was not in compliance with international trade rules.

That the United States continues to selectively enforce its rules despite the W.T.O. ruling has drawn criticism from European Union trade officials, who were called to action in a December 2007 complaint filed by the United Kingdom's Remote Gambling Association.

"In short, the perception of our allies in the EU is that the U.S. has chosen to continue the enforcement of WTO-violating laws, which the US government itself says are unclear, in a fashion that that selectively targets non-US and principally European entities, and then ignores similar actions by Americans," Mr. Wexler wrote in a letter dated Aug. 6.

In both letters, the congressmen strongly suggest that the Justice Department should be reined in to avoid escalating a potential trade dispute, before the W.T.O., between the United States and the European Union.

IGN's Take

Perhaps there's a blatantly obvious calendar event that we've missed, but to reemphasize, we're unsure about what motivated these letters.

As we reported in late July, Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the R.G.A., was in Washington, D.C., for meetings, though the meeting penciled then between a European Union trade delegation and the office of the United States trade representative was postponed.

Mr. Hawkswood told us that this meeting would be tentatively rescheduled for September; these letters, therefore, may merely serve as a means to raise awareness ahead of the delegation's arrival.

We were unable to reach Mr. Hawkswood for comment by press time.

Click here to view a copy of Mr. Cohen's letter to Mr. Mukasey.

Click here to view a copy of Mr. Wexler's letter to Mr. Mukasey.

Chris Krafcik is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.