US-facing gambling operators and state governments were shocked when the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced its re-interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act, so that it excluded interstate gambling. Their initial response was muted, but it was only a matter of time before they began mounting a coordinated defense of the emerging US online gambling industry and that time has arrived.

Earlier this week, attorney generals representing New Jersey and Pennsylvania, along with the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL) wrote letters to the DOJ asking that the new interpretation be rolled back. They also asked the DOJ to refrain from prosecuting operators in their states and to, ultimately, leave decisions regarding online gambling to the states themselves.

The DOJ is currently allowing states and operators 90 days to get compliant with the new interpretation.

New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal has also filed a Freedom of Information request asking that the DOJ provide details as to how it decided to come up the Wire Act’s new look in the first place. There is a widespread belief that the DOJ was acting in the interest of casino magnate, and online gambling hater, Sheldon Adelson when coming up with the new policy.

Adelson has long advocated, specifically, against online poker and online poker is the online gambling sector that would be most impacted by the new policies. Not coincidentally, Adelson also donated more than $100 million to GOP candidates during the recent midterm election in the US. He’s also donated $500,000 to a defense fund for Trump allies who are facing charges in the Mueller probe of Russian interference in US elections.

For anyone thinking that the Adelson theory is the work of tinfoil hat wearing conspiracists, it should be noted that Adelson-funded lobbyists have been pitching an identical re-interpretation of the Wire Act for more than a year.

So far, there’s been no public reaction from the DOJ to the backlash on their new efforts to reign in online gambling.


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