In mid-February, the New Hampshire state lottery filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Justice new interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act. The complaint was filed to a US District Court for New Hampshire with the Department of Justice and William Barr, the newly appointed Attorney General, as the defendants. According to their lawsuit, the new Wire Act opinion ignores the “clear, binding precedents” on the scope of the law.
Perhaps the biggest issue was that the new opinion caused so much confusion with regards to how strict its implementation would be. This sentiment was shared by many entities and other states including Pennsylvania – they have been participating in the lawsuit in one way or the other. This is quite a big deal since if the opinion whose implementation has been delayed goes is implemented at the moment, all the lotteries across the country will be brought to a grinding halt. This would result in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue for states like New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. There has been a tone of speculation that the move to reinterpret the law was influenced by certain industry leaders who have not been sold on the idea of online gambling.
Despite all that is going on now, a recent move by the United States Department of Justice shows that it is not even considering the reversal of its new opinion. The move which intends to squash the backlash that it has received since it announced that the Wire Act would apply to all other forms of online gambling and not just sports betting.
The Department of Justice’s response arrived last Friday in a 37-page document that requested that the lawsuit is dismissed – there is, obviously, an extremely slim chance that the request for dismissal will be granted. However, the very fact that the department has opted to request the dismissal of the lawsuit proves that it is indeed not ready to reverse the Wire Act opinion.
To make it even worse, shortly after New Hampshire has already received the amicus briefs to its lawsuit, Sheldon Adelson (the anti-gambling lord himself) through the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) filed yet another amicus brief supporting the decision of the Department of Justice. While this not surprising at all, it certainly makes it clear that the department is amassing some support as it prepares for the legal battle ahead. All hope is not lost though – there are now a total of 15 states supporting the New Hampshire lawsuit and this probably enough to at least get the DOJ to make a few changes to their opinion.