The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has recently claimed that its new interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act does not address the legality of interstate and online lotteries. This move by the department is seemingly meant to salvage a losing hand but the development could likely mean an end to the federal court case that was filed earlier this year.
The new memo was filed on Monday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in response to the lawsuit that was forwarded by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission (NHLC) – this lawsuit challenges the new Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion that the 1961 Wire Act applied to other forms of online gambling and not just sports betting. The essence of this new opinion is that law now restricts pretty much all forms of interstate gambling save for horse racing and state lotteries such as the NHLC are not amused about what it might mean for their hugely lucrative interstate products like the Powerball. In addition to that, the interstate online gambling operators are not happy about what this means for the fact that some of their data is occasionally routed out of state borders just like most internet traffic.
Apparently, the concerns by the state lotteries were genuine after all and the Department of Justice responded on Monday clarifying that the new opinion does not target state lotteries or any of the vendors. The memo further noted that the feds are in the process of “reviewing” that question. Moreover, the Department of Justice also promised that in any case, the review determines that the lotteries do fall under the Wire Act’s scope, the NHLC, as well as other lotteries, would be given an additional 90 days to bring all of their operations into compliance.
Needless to say, the Department of Justice’s memo seems to be nothing more than a shamelessly transparent attempt to kick the lotteries from the court case, a move that would definitely give it a much stronger position as it will only be fighting the commercial operators that do not have the lotteries’ sway with the local legislatures. Still, it all comes down to how favorably the federal judge who will hear the case will rule on the rather brazen effort to turn the tide mid-stream.
In case the judge dismissed the case, the state of New Hampshire or any other disgruntled party will bring the case in a different federal court. Another likely scenario is that the Department of Justice’s review will reveal that lotteries are indeed impacted leading the start to begin again in New Hampshire – not very likely, but certainly not impossible.