DOJ holds off on Wire Act crackdown
No punishments will be attempted until next year at the earliest
Online poker and other games recently got a brief reprieve from the long arm of the Department of Justice (DOJ) law. A judge ruled in favor of New Hampshire in its case against the department for arbitrarily changing its position on the Federal Wire Act, paving the way for online gaming to potentially begin to see expansion in the country. At the time, the DOJ said it wasn’t sure what steps would follow, but it has now made up its mind. For now, it will not pursue any legal action against anyone it believes is violating the Act – at least not until next year, at the earliest.
Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen distributed a memo this week, explaining that the DOJ is reviewing Judge Paul J. Barbadoro’s decision. He asserts that the moratorium doesn’t mean that it has decided to reverse course – again – and that prosecutions could come in the future. The fact that the DOJ is not issuing a statement either way, choosing instead to extend the current moratorium, could be a sign that it plans on appealing the judge’s ruling.
A lawsuit filed against the DOJ by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, which was later joined by a number of states, asserted that the department was completely wrong in reversing its Wire Act opinion a few months ago when it decided that the legislation covered all forms of online gaming, not just sports gambling, including lotteries. New Hampshire was quick to point out that there have been a number of high-profile, multistate lotteries held over the years and that the DOJ has never acted against them.
Judge Barbadoro’s ruling only applies to the specific lawsuit, meaning it only protects New Hampshire. However, it is seen as a precedent that could be used by other states and entities should the DOJ decide to push forward with legal action.