60 More Days For Wire Act Enforcement
The U.S. Justice Department will delay any implementation of its new opinion on the 1961 federal Wire Act for another 60 days until June 14.
A memo on the delay was sent by outgoing Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to all U.S. Attorneys, assistant attorney generals and the director of the FBI.
“We have decided to extend that window an additional 60 day,” Rosenstein wrote. “Providing this extension of time is an internal exercise of prosecutorial discretion and does not create a safe harbor for violations of the Wire Act.”
The new opinion was released by the DOJ in January and reversed a 2011 opinion that held that the Wire Act applied only to sports betting and did not cover online betting held within a state’s boundaries. The opinion prompted three states—New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada—to legalize online gambling. Several other states also began online lottery sales and games.
The new opinion found that the wire act does apply to other forms of gambling than sports betting and calls into question any type of online gambling where information crosses state lines.
Immediately threatened our multi-state lotteries such as Power Ball and Megabucks and a poker player sharing agreement between Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. However, all online gambling could be threatened if any information is routed to out-of-state servers.
New Hampshire, which has an online lottery, has challenged the opinion in federal court and New Jersey and Pennsylvania are also expected to take action challenging the opinion.
Some online media reports have said that U.S. District Judge Paul Barbadoro, who is hearing the New Hampshire lawsuit, strongly urged the DOJ to extend the delay in implementing the opinion.
New Hampshire is asking the court to vacate the opinion, confirm that the Wire Act does not apply to state lotteries, and permanently keep the Justice Department from acting on the opinion.
Rosenstein initially delayed implementation of the opinion for 90 days after it was released which would have ended April 15. He is now leaving office and whether the DOJ will move to enforce the opinion—barring any court rulings—will now fall to new U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
Barr is seen as a states rights advocate and many in the gambling industry hope he will decide to simply not take any enforcement actions against online gambling.