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What Are the Odds the Wire Act Case Dooms Online Gambling?

An NFL football sits with a pile of money on a green field
By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 10, 2019 9:00 AM

Everybody has an opinion, but you can bet some matter more than others. Literally, you can bet on it.

That's what's happening with the Wire Act. It's the federal law that outlawed online sports betting. A judge has declared that it applies only to bets or wagers on sporting events or contests. But it was a close for lottery operators, poker players, and online gamers. They were betting against an earlier opinion that have could doomed their industries.

DOJ Opinion

Last year, the Department of Justice issued an opinion that online gambling was illegal. It reversed an Obama-era opinion that confined the Wire Act to sports betting. The New Hampshire Lottery Commission sued.

After some nail biting in the wagering community, Judge Paul Barbadoro issued his opinion about it. He said the Wire Act "applies only to transmissions related to bets or wagers on a sporting event or contest." The plaintiffs said, "Bingo!" or whatever lottery winners say. Anyway, the Legal Sports Report says it's not over because the DOJ will probably take it to the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals. It could get better, or worse. It's 50/50.

"We are likely at the beginning of what could be a drawn-out process for what happens to the 2018 Wire Act memorandum," the sports-betting ezine said. "Barbadoro's decision opens the door for the government to potentially create some chaos if they choose to declare that the 2018 opinion would not be enforced against lottery operators."

SCOTUS, Anyone?

Steve Silver, an attorney and adjunct professor of gaming law, thinks the stakes are much higher than sports betting in New Hampshire. He sees it as an interstate issue. "(I)t seems clear that an appeal is forthcoming," he said. "Based on the public rhetoric from the DOJ thus far, it seems that SCOTUS is the real target."

It's anybody's bet whether the Supreme Court will take the case. The justices typically take cases only when there is a disagreement among the circuit courts on an issue. For now, the online gambling issue is really a matter of opinions.

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