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Latest Department Of Justice Wire Act Opinion Struck Down By U.S. District Judge

Wire Act Only Applies To Interstate Sports Betting And Not All Forms Of Online Gambling, According To Judge


The U.S. Department of Justice’s most recent opinion on the Wire Act was overturned by a U.S. District Judge Monday.

The lawsuit was filed by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission in March as a response to the DOJ’s new opinion, which stated that all forms of interstate online gambling would be deemed illegal, not just sports betting.

The New Hampshire Lottery partners with a vendor that has servers in Vermont and Ohio. With the new interpretation of the act, the state’s lottery would be deemed illegal.

U.S. District Judge Paul Barbadoro in New Hampshire rejected that interpretation of the law and clarified that it only applies to sports betting.

The ruling comes as a relief to many states that are beginning to legalize online gambling. Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have legal online poker with shared player pools. If the new opinion was upheld in court, those shared player pools would no longer be legal.

Those player pools could continue to grow when West Virginia and Pennsylvania jump into the mix. West Virginia passed online gambling legislation earlier this year, while Pennsylvania passed it in 2017. After nearly two years, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced in April that online poker will begin on July 15.

After Black Friday, when the three major online poker operators were shut out of the United States, the DOJ released an opinion that stated the Wire Act only applied to sports betting. In January, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel released a memo that said the opinion was a misinterpretation of the statue and that all interstate online gambling would be illegal.

According to Bloomberg, Barbadoro saw the passage of the Paraphernalia Act, which was passed by Congress simultaneously with the Wire Act, to decipher Congress’ true intentions.

“That these two gambling statutes were passed the same day sends a strong contextual signal concerning the Wire Act’s scope,” Barbadoro said. “The Paraphernalia Act demonstrates that when Congress intended to target non-sports gambling it used clear and specific language to accomplish its goal. In other words, when Congress wished to achieve a specific result, ‘it knew how to say so.’”

Despite the victory for online gambling in the short term, the ruling is likely to be appealed. This is probably just the beginning of an elongated legal battle between states and the Federal Government.