NJ politicians ready to go to war over Wire Act reversal

When the US Department of Justice reversed its 2009 opinion on the Federal Wire Act recently, it opened the possibility for legal action from states that thought this handout to GOP political donors was completely out of line. Now, barely two months after the reversal, New Jersey State Senate majority leader Steve Sweeney has announced his state’s intention to fight the reversal via any legal means necessary.
Earlier this week, Sweeney penned a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein laying out the Garden State’s argument for keeping things the way they were and not putting a stake through the heart of interstate gambling compacts.
Under the new interpretation of the Wire Act, states would no longer be able to participate in interstate gambling of any kind. If upheld, this opinion would effectively kill online poker, digital lotteries, and parimutuel horse racing in a number of US States.
In his letter to Rosenstein, Sweeney lays out a clear course of legal action saying, “If the OLC 2019 Wire Act Opinion is not rescinded, I have authorized former Senator Raymond Lesniak to file suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of the New Jersey Senate for a Declaratory Judgment that the 2019 OLC Opinion is arbitrary and capricious and that the statutory prohibitions of the Wire Act are uniformly limited to gambling on sporting events or contests.”
Sweeney goes on to point out that the new interpretation is not in line with the DOJ’s 2011 opinion saying, “he 2019 opinion, which took 26 pages of tortured analysis of sentence structure and comma placements to determine that the clear language of the Wire Act applied to all forms of gambling, was contrary to the much better reasoned opinion of the 5th Circuit and the ‘thorough review’ of the Department of Justice in 2011.”
Besides threatening a lawsuit, Sweeney is also asking for a review of the legislative history of the Wire Act. This would, presumably, expose the fact that there was no good legal reason for the reversal and that it was, in fact, a handout to casino owner Sheldon Adelson. Adelson, a longtime opponent of online gambling donated tens of millions of dollars to GOP candidates during the 2018 mid-term elections.
In short, New Jersey is definitely not letting interstate gambling go without a fight and New Jersey has definitely shown that it’s a state that doesn’t shy away from protecting its gambling industry in a court of law.