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Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em: Nevada AG Backs Bid to Block Online Gambling

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has angered many of the biggest players on the Las Vegas Strip by joining nine other state attorneys general in asking Vice President-elect Mike Pence to push for a restoration of the Interstate Wire Act, a move that could lead to a ban on online poker and other internet gambling.

Some of the biggest players in Nevada are in a huff, but not all of them. Laxalt’s hole card might carry the face of one of the kings of Vegas, a billionaire whose enterprises are among the largest in Nevada.

The Poker Players Alliance broke the story by posting the AGs’ letter on Twitter.

The attorneys general claimed that by dismantling the Interstate Wire Act, “in the dark of night on Christmas 2011,” the Department of Justice had “opened the door to expansive internet gambling and exposed states to the significant negative impacts that often accompany online gambling,” such as divorce, domestic violence, child abuse and suicide.

Along with Laxalt, the letter is co-signed by fellow Republican attorneys general Jeff Landry (Louisiana), Bill Schuette (Michigan), Douglas Peterson (Nebraska), Wayne Stenehjem (North Dakota), Scott Pruitt (Oklahoma), Alan Wilson (South Carolina), Marty Jackley (South Dakota), Ken Paxton (Texas) and Sean Reyes (Utah).

Reyes has already banned online gaming in Utah, so his name at the bottom of the letter was no surprise. Paxton, even though one of the most popular poker games is named after his state, has always opposed gambling. So his signature didn’t shock anyone, either.

But Laxalt? How could he sign this letter? Nevada has been the home of legal gambling in America for decades.

Nevada Rep. Dina Titus is angry.

The Democrat, whose district includes downtown Las Vegas, wrote to Pence and the presidential transition team. She said the attorneys general letter “contains several inaccuracies and unfair allegations.”

“For example, the letter cites a study of youth in Connecticut and their online gaming habits,” Titus wrote. “Unfortunately, the letter fails to note that online gaming is not legal in Connecticut, so any adolescent online gaming would be done by utilizing offshore or illegal internet sites.”

Nevada Gaming Control Board chairman A.G. Burnett told Ralston Reports he was “disappointed Mr. Laxalt didn’t consult with his clients on this.”

“Internet gambling in Nevada has been a complete regulatory success,” Burnett said. “We’ve had no issues with patron protection or ensuring it is done to the letter of the law.”

Mari St. Martin, a spokesman for Gov. Brian Sandoval, told various media outlets in Nevada that the governor did not support the Laxalt letter.

As surprising as it might be to anyone outside the gaming industry, Laxalt’s name on the AGs’ letter, while it might have angered many, came as no surprise to Nevada.