Wire Act re-do struck down by federal judge
US District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro handed a major victory to US gambling interests by striking down the Department of Justice’s recent reinterpretation of the Federal Wire Act of 1961. In doing so, Judge Barbadoro saved interstate gaming, including the popular Powerball lottery and online poker liquidity pools.
In a detailed, 60-page ruling, Judge Barbadoro held the DOJ to its 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act which allowed stated that interstate gambling was legal for pretty much everything except sports betting. His legalese version of that, as reported on by OnlinePokerReport.com, reads, “I hereby declare that § 1084(a) of the Wire Act… applies only to transmissions related to bets or wagers on a sporting event or contest. The 2018 OLC Opinion is set aside.”
That 2018 opinion, which came out of nowhere and was widely seen as a gift to casino magnate and GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, attempted to roll back the 2011 interpretation and ban interstate gambling all together. This would have spelled disaster for many state lotteries. That’s why the plaintiff in the case was the New Hampshire Lottery Commission.
In his ruling Judge Barbadoro struck down the DOJ’s assertion that it wouldn’t likely prosecute lottery commissions for engaging in interstate gambling by pointing out that their language on the matter was particularly vague. (Apparently Federal Judge’s don’t see, “Take my word for it,” as a legitimate legal argument.)
He went on to say, “Nothing the Department of Justice said or did before the plaintiffs filed their complaints gave states like New Hampshire any reason to believe that state actors would not be prosecuted under the OLC’s new interpretation of the Wire Act.”
At this point it’s quite likely that the DOJ will appeal the ruling. Don’t be surprised if this one winds up in the hands of the Supreme Court. Until then, and that could be two or three years, interstate gaming will be open for business in the United States.