DOJ fights New Hampshire in court over the outdated Wire Act.

  • The Wire Act was made into law in 1961 to prevent underground sportsbooks from ruling the industry.
  • When the internet was created, the Wire Act immediately became obsolete, yet no parts of the law were changed.
  • The Department of Justice released an opinion in 2011 that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting.
  • The New Hampshire Lottery filed a lawsuit shortly after the Department of Justice reversed its opinion in November 2018.

CONCORD, N.H. – Sportsbooks around the country are holding their breath (again) regarding the scope of the Federal Wire Act of 1961. The New Hampshire Lottery took the stance filing a lawsuit against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding their decision on the outlook of the law.

However, on Friday of last week, the DOJ set the tone back, filing an appeal to a June ruling that stated the Wire Act only applies to sports betting.

The June ruling in the NH case was overseen by Judge Paul Barbadoro, who claimed that only sports betting was affected by the Wire Act and not other forms of internet gambling such as online lotteries, online casinos, online poker.

The appeal from the DOJ beat the August 19 deadline but must still petition the court of appeals, who will determine if the case needs to be reassessed. However, the First Circuit doesn’t enter back into session for another two months.

The Wire Act has been the main focus of state gambling industries for the past decade. In 2011, the Office of Legal Counsel explained that sports betting was the only trigger for breaking the Wire Act. But last year, the same office declared it covered all forms of gaming.

This federal law was put on the books well before the internet was even thought of, so it goes without saying updates are needed in order to settle the storm.

Even with this decision to appeal, the states that offer legal sports betting are still eligible to provide bettors with online options as long as no part of the transmission exits the state (including the server location). Further, to keep in line with the law, some states like Ohio remolded their entire sports betting bill, changing the scope of how sports betting in their state will come to play.

Only time will tell what the future holds for the Wire Act and sportsbooks about the country. With constantly changing opinions, it is possible that the Wire Act could be rewritten or handled in a manner such as the Professional and Amateur Protection Act was.

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