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New Jersey and Pennsylvania Attorney Generals Attack New Wire Act Opinion

New Jersey AG Files FOIA Request To See If Sheldon Adelson Influenced Reversal

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The attorney generals for New Jersey and Pennsylvania want to get to the bottom of why the US Department of Justice reversed its interpretation of the Wire Act last month. Gurbir Grewal, AG of New Jersey, and Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s AG, penned a letter to the DOJ that objects to the department’s reversal.

Before January, when the DOJ released its memo, the previous interpretation of the law only applied to interstate sports betting. With the reversal, the DOJ claimed that all forms of online gaming would be subject to the Wire Act. The new opinion basically outlawed all gaming that crossed state lines.

Grewal and Shapiro, whose states make up the no. 2 and no. 3 gambling markets behind Nevada, made it clear in their letter that the new opinion affects state-sponsored lotteries, will cost many citizens their jobs, and hurts state tax revenue.

“The opinion casts doubt not only on traditional online gaming, but also multi-state lottery drawings (such as Power Ball and Mega Millions) and online sales of in-state lottery tickets,” they said in their letter. “This decision puts jobs and livelihoods at risk for the thousands of people who work in the online gaming industry and jeopardizes critical state funding for the public good that is generated by lottery sales and other internet activity that is legal within our states.”

Grewal did more than just help write the letter. Grewal also filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out if Sheldon Adelson was involved in lobbying the DOJ to make the change.

Over the last few years, the Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO has led the effort to outright ban online gambling in the United States with his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

“The New Jersey FOIA request seeks information on any communication involving Adelson, his lobbyists, the White House, and DOJ regarding the relevant federal law and online gaming,” said the state’s officials in a press release.

Adelson and his wife Miriam were the Republican Party’s top donors during the 2016 election, shelling out $113 million for conservative politicians and causes, including $20 million to President Trump’s campaign. His coalition spent years lobbying in Washington against the 2011 reversal.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania are two of the states that have the most to lose with the change of opinion by the DOJ. Both states legalized sports betting and online poker. Pennsylvania has yet to implement its online poker products, but New Jersey is already part of a compact with Delaware and Nevada to share its player pool. These types of compacts between states would be deemed illegal under the new opinion.

The DOJ has given states 90 days to comply with the new ruling.