- The Wire Act of 1961 was originally written into law to cripple mob organizations from running crooked sportsbooks.
- Earlier this year, the Wire Act was reinterpreted to include all interstate gambling – not just sports betting.
- The new Wire Act opinion is not enforceable by law but can be used to guide the US Department of Justice in matters pertaining to the Wire Act.
CONCORD, N.H. – With several states having recently legalized mobile sports betting within their borders, many are wondering how the New Hampshire case against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) will affect the industry.
New Hampshire Lottery filed suit against the DOJ for their reinterpretation of the Wire Act. The Department of Justice issued an opinion claiming that the jurisdiction of the Wire Act includes all interstate gambling activities, not just sports betting.
The Wire Act was originally signed into law in 1961. It was done so in order to stop mob organizations from sharing sports betting information across state lines through the use of wire communication. In 2011 it was reinterpreted by the DOJ to include online sports betting sites as well.
However, many are worried that the latest opinion issued would mean that interstate lottery games would no longer exist, thereby cutting a huge source of revenue to individual states.
In a complaint sent to US Attorney General William Barr, the New Hampshire Lottery expanded upon this fear:
“The USDOJ’s reversal of the 2011 Opinion, without any further action or explanation, is also likely to have a chilling effect on banks accepting and processing these lottery-related transactions, which can effectively shut down this sales channel. This would result in a loss of approximately $6-8 million in education funding for New Hampshire.”
Ted Olson and Matthew McGill of Gibson Dunn law firm, who guided New Jersey to their Supreme Court win over the federal law PASPA, gave light into the New Hampshire Lottery’s perspective over the matter.
“In the New Hampshire litigation, one thing everyone agrees on is that the Wire Act applies to sports betting,” McGill wrote to ESPN. “At the same time, though, no one is suggesting legal sports betting in New Jersey and other states violates the Wire Act.”
The case is now pending before U.S. District Judge Barbadoro and depending on how he rules the case could affect how the Wire Act is viewed by the Department of Justice.
There is a chance that he could stick by the original interpretation of the Wire Act, he could go by the updated 2011 version, he could adhere to the latest DOJ opinion, or he could even rule that the Wire Act doesn’t affect states with legal sports betting.
That last possibility would mean that sports bettors could use mobile wagering apps across state lines, granted that they are in a state that also has legal online sports betting.
This is just a speculation, as the case is believed to have a long way to go before anything definitive can be announced.
“I have a strong feeling that however I resolve this case…it is likely to be resolved by the United States Supreme Court either way,” said Judge Barbadoro.
– In his career, Hasan has worked both local and state government positions—including the Attorney General’s Office in Florida. On top of being familiar with the legislative process, he has also been researching and writing on the legality of sports betting across the US. Outside of work you’ll most likely find him producing or playing music, playing sports, or working on creative writing projects. You’ll also catch him at Doak Campbell Stadium cheering on the Noles.