The United States Department of Justice is hard at work preparing an opinion that is likely to reinterpret the Wire Act and make it apply to all forms of gambling and not just sports betting. This move would reverse the 2011 Office of Legal Counsel opinions which made sports betting the only activity under the Wire Act’s purview. While the actual content of the opinion is still unknown, it is expected to come down this week.
There is no certainty about this, but if it does come down, it is likely to be buried later this week just before the Christmas holiday kicks off. Amidst all this, it has also been reported that two senators have plans to introduce sports betting legislation by December 20 – this legislation is meant to give the Department of Justice authority over the approval of sports betting laws and regulations at the state level.
How It Could Affect the United States’ Gambling Market
As it stands, it is not entirely clear if the reversal of the opinion will introduce significant functional changes to the gaming landscape in the country – especially with regards to online poker, online casino, and sports betting. Besides, even under the current OLC opinion, New Jersey and Nevada are already offering interstate online poker wagering with more states, including Pennsylvania, expected to join the pool very soon. Also, online gambling has already been legalized in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware and should arrive in Pennsylvania in the next couple of months.
So, the biggest question about the impact of the proposed Wire Act reinterpretation is how it would affect the interstate poker agreement that is currently being offered by Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey. This is not to say that people should state worrying about big changes to their poker pools – in fact, depending on how the opinion is crafted, the three states might not even be affected.
According to John Holden, a professor at Oklahoma State University who is an expert in sports betting and the Wire Act, the “reversal of the 2011 Office of Legal Counsel memo would be a titanic shift in the Department of Justice’s view of the Wire Act.”
He further noted that an opinion is what guides the Department of Justice’s view of the scope of any given statute. Apparently, it is not a binding interpretation of the law which can be passed by Congress. While it might seem rather subtle, the opinions might not be good news for online casinos and online poker even if it is still unknown how the policy shift would impact the state-regulated gaming markets.