Last week the situation regarding the new Wire Act reinterpretation reached a breaking point at the New Hampshire Federal Court. Judge Paul Barbadoro is overseeing the legal proceedings, as arguments and motions arise from both sides of the case.
- New Wire Act interpretation is officially a federal court case.
- DOJ fails in their attempt to get the case against NHLC dismissed.
- Judge’s ruling gives the DOJ 14 days to specify the reach of the opinion regarding different “forms of gambling”.
The Lead Roles in the Court Case
The New Hampshire Lottery Commission was the first to challenge the DOJ’s reinterpretation of the 1961 Wire Act. Coming from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, it shook the foundations of the Obama administration’s interpretation back in 2011.
It poses a threat to any gambling industry entity operating across state borders. Additional support to NHLC’s claim has come from the states of Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania so far, all of which have issued amicable briefs.
Blows are being dealt with by the opposing party as well. The DOJ’s Office of Legal Council has gained the support of both the Coalition to Internet Gambling and the National Association of Convenience Stores.
Last Minute DOJ Wire Act Memo
The Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, came forward with a memo in a failed attempt to get the case dismissed last week. He claimed a lack of grounds for the plaintiffs, supporting his statement by a further interpretation of the Wire Act. The memo said that the DOJ did not conclude that lotteries are impacted by the new opinion. It also informed that the new opinion does not “identify a credible threat of prosecution” – the NHLC would be intact by it and therefore, lose their right to a court challenge.
Bad Grammar – The Culprit Behind the Wire Act Mess
Much has been said about the infamous Wire Act throughout the years. Up until recently, it restricted the ban on interstate gambling to sports betting, while the new interpretation seeks to expand this to other “forms of gambling”.
The judge referred to the actual phrasing of the law as “a mess”, which is more than supported by the actual complications from the Act over the years. The core of the dispute and the new opinion lies in the proper interpretation of punctuation, as well as the grouping of clauses and words that refer to them.
What Happens Now With the Wire Act?
With two administrations seeing the text differently, and a need for the long due final resolution, judge Barbadoro made his decision after the hearing. He ruled in favor of the Lottery Commission, dismissing Rosenstein’s memo, and additionally asked the DOJ to give a conclusive definition of the score of the law with a two-week notice.
Following the 14 days, the DOJ should step forward with their final Wire Act opinion, on which the judge will rule for or against it. The mass public is free to play the guessing game in regard to the future of the Wire Act. All that is known so far is that the DOJ has been given final notice on defining their opinion.
Whether it will support their current stance, change it back to the previous, more lenient interpretation, or even take a completely different turn is yet to be known. Nevertheless, Judge Barbadoro mentioned on several occasions during the court hearing that this case will most likely end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Events Leading up to the Court Case
The beginning of 2019 has been plagued by the DOJ’s new interpretation of the Wire Act. The topic has peaked at several points over the last few months. Let’s take a closer look at the main events.
- On January 14, 2019, the DOJ officially issued the new interpretation of the Wire Act.
- A day later, Rosenstein sends a memo and informs business operators that they have 90 days to comply with the new opinion.
- A month later, on February 15, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission files the first complaint in US District Court.
- On April 8, a few days before the court hearing, Rosenstein sends a memo stating that the new opinion does not include lottery programs.