US Online Gambling Still Under Threat: DOJ Is Appealing Its Loss In The Wire Act Case

The case about the enforcement and breadth of the federal Wire Act is not over yet.

The Department of Justice filed its intent to appeal a district court decision on the Wire Act to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. In June, a federal judge in the New Hampshire District ruled that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting, and not to other forms of interstate gaming.

Read the notice of appeal.

The quick history of the Wire Act Case

The New Hampshire Lottery and its vendor had filed the federal case because of the DOJ’s change in stance on the interpretation of the Wire Act.

The DOJ in 2011 had stated that the Wire Act applied only to sports wagering. But it reversed course with a memo from 2018 expanding the possible reach for federal prosecution, which triggered worries about its applicability to online gambling, lotteries, and other forms of gaming that potentially cross state lines.

The New Hampshire District judge had forecast that the case would likely reach the US Supreme Court. While the case is going on, the DOJ has said it would not enforce the new interpretation of the Wire Act until 2020.

Reaction to the Wire Act appeal

The online gambling lobbying group, iDEA Growth, issued a statement after the notice:

“The Department’s action, while hardly unexpected, is certainly unwarranted,” said Jeff Ifrah, founder of iDEA Growth. “DOJ generally files appeals of adverse district court decisions as a matter of course.

“We hope that, rather than engaging in a protracted, expensive and ultimately unsuccessful legal fight, the Department will take this opportunity to negotiate a settlement which will focus the Wire Act and DOJ’s enforcement resources on the right targets – the unlicensed illegal offshore Internet gambling operators who do not create jobs or tax revenue in the U.S. and do not appropriately protect consumers.”

What’s next in the case?

The DOJ must formally petition the First Circuit to hear its appeal. After that, the First Circuit will determine what will happen next in the case.

The court is not in session for oral arguments again until October.

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