When the US Department of Justice recently re-wrote its interpretation of the Wire Act of 1961 to ban interstate gambling, it had not intention of impacting interstate lotteries such as the Powerball. That’s what Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told a judge in a memo recently filed in a case filed by the New Hampshire Lottery in an effort to halt the DOJ’s meddling with the Wire Act.

In his memo Rosenstein states, “The OLC opinion did not address whether the Wire Act applies to State lotteries and their vendors. The Department is now reviewing that question.” He went on to tell his prosecutors to refrain from enforcing the new rulings for 90 days. This is the second 90 day extension the DOJ has offered up and is, allegedly, designed to lottery operators additional time to comply with the new parameters of the Wire Act.

The reinterpretation of the Wire Act came last year as the result of a memo from the The Office of Legal Counsel within the DOJ. It walked back a 2011 interpretation that opened interstate gambling for everything except sports betting. The 2018 reinterpretation was widely seen as a political favor to online gambling foe, and GOP donor, Shel Adelson. Adelson, who owns casinos around the world has long been opposed to online gambling, which he sees as a threat to his land-based casinos.

Perhaps the lawyers at the DOJ have a clear cut idea of what they’re actually doing here, but what that is exactly seems unclear to the laymen. To the casual observer, it appears as though the Wire Act re-do was a poorly thought out political favor to Adelson that had unintended consequences for state lotteries.


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