Laxalt asks Trump administration to squash web gaming; governor, chief regulator not pleased

Attorney General Adam Laxalt has signed onto a letter to the Trump administration asking the president-elect to squash web gaming, a position favored by major Laxalt donor Sheldon Adelson but one opposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval and Nevada's top gaming regulator.

The letter , which was put on Twitter by the Poker Players Alliance, was addressed to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who has a generally anti-gaming bent and the transition team. It asks for the incoming administration to reinterpret The Wire Act, now being debated, to ensure Internet gaming is prohibited.

"The risks to our citizens are real and extensive," the letter from 10 attorneys general said, an echo of Adelson's objections. "The ability for youth to access online gaming sites presents a significant risk to teens, a risk more easily mitigated at traditional brick-and-mortar establishments."

The move by Laxalt nearly four years after the governor and lawmakers passed what Brian Sandoval called a "historic" law legalizing web gaming here clearly caught most stakeholders by surprise. And it essentially sends a message that the attorney general, who has opposed most federal intrusion into the states, believes DC can better handle this issue.

"No, he doesn't support this," Mari St. Martin, a spokeswoman for Sandoval told me when asked about the Laxalt/AGs letter..

"Internet gaming in Nevada has been a complete regulatory success," Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett said. "We've had no issues with patron protection or ensuring it is done to the letter of the law. I'm disappointed Mr Laxalt didn't consult with his clients on this."

Geoff Freeman, the head of the American Gaming Association, said: "The AGA continues to focus - and make significant progress - on issues of common cause across the gaming industry."

Indeed, this one has split the industry, with many other gaming players hoping to take advantage of Internet gaming. 

After I tweeted about this, Robert Uithoven, a lobbyist for Adelson and close confidant of Laxalt, responded: "Perhaps a column is due recapping the promises made during that 2-hour (if that) debate on the jobs & revenue projections."

That's a reference to how quickly the bill was passed in 2013, with all requisite gushing, and how little it has borne fruit so far with sites opening (and closing) and not proving lucrative yet, partly because of the uncertain regulatory atmosphere in DC where Adelson has tried to get a ban passed.

This is a big story that will continue to reverberate from DC to Carson City, causing political and policy temblors.