New Hampshire won a stunning judgment in a federal court on Monday as the state defeated the Department of Justice in a lawsuit over an interpretation of the Wire Act.
The Wire Act, a gambling law from 1961, had come back into play after the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize sports betting last year for all 50 states.
In a 60-page ruling, US District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro ruled that the Wire Act did not cover interstate online gambling as recently claimed by the Department Of Justice.
Barbadoro wrote in his judgment, “I hereby declare that § 1084(a) of the Wire Act… applies only to transmissions related to bets or wagers on a sporting event or contest.”
The judgment is a victory for a group of states that have already integrated online betting into their state.
Perhaps, a small setback, however, the ruling is not nationwide at the moment. The Department of Justice could issue a new opinion that affects states that have not legalized.
New Hampshire brought the lawsuit against the DOJ (Department of Justice) worried that their opinion could affect their lottery games that crossed state lines such as Mega Millions and Powerball.
The DOJ sought to get the lawsuit thrown out claiming that their opinion on the Wire Act had not yet factored in a decision on interstate lotteries.
To counter the DOJ’s argument, New Hampshire claimed that the DOJ could criminalize the lottery at any point without notice if they chose to do so under the Wire Act’s powers.
Judge Barbadoro sided with New Hampshire’s claims finding that the DOJ could enact these power causing harm to unknowing residents.
“The Government challenges this conclusion by arguing that the likelihood that the plaintiffs will face prosecution under the Wire Act is low.
“Because the 2018 OLC Opinion does not explicitly conclude that state agencies, state employees, and state vendors are subject to prosecution under the Act.”
I reject this argument because the record tells a different story,” the Judge concluded.
Judge Barbadoro’s ruling incorporates sports betting because the DOJ argued that the Wire Act also included online wagering on games.
The ruling keeps online wagering legal in the states that have already passed online legislation for their state.
The judgment also pushed back on DOJ’s central argument, giving other states the claim to continue to operate their online gambling games aside from sports gambling.
Matthew D. McGill, representing the company responsible for New Hampshire’s lottery, NeoPollard, Interactive called the ruling a win for all states.
“Because the court ‘set aside’ the Justice Department’s incorrect re-interpretation of the Wire Act, this ruling has a nationwide impact,” he said in a statement.
“Throughout the country, state lotteries and others in the gaming industry once again can rely on the Justice Department’s 2011 opinion that the Wire Act is limited to sports betting.”
The DOJ has already signaled that they will appeal the judgment claiming that Judge’s Barbadoro’s ruling was too narrow.
With the case continuing alongside other states legalizing sports betting, expect the challenge to the Wire Act to possibly scale all the way to the Supreme Court.
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