On Monday, June 3rd, New Hampshire won their lawsuit against the Department of Justice. The District Court Judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that sought out to clarify the Wire Act interpretation. The New Hampshire Governor, Attorney General, and Lottery Executive that were working on behalf of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission finally gained some security for their everyday operations.
- On Monday, June 3rd, the District Court of New Hampshire ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
- The court decision dismisses the new 2018 re-interpretation of the Wire Act.
- The scope of the ruling is yet to be defined, but it limits interstate wagering to sports solely.
The Final Court Ruling
The District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro officially made the 2018 re-interpretation of the Wire Act unlawful and decided in favor of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission.
All the while, the issue of the lawsuit had been regarding the imminent threat placed on lottery providers in the state of New Hampshire. Its leading officials had made the move towards a lawsuit in an attempt to protect their industry from the new interpretation.
The Department of Justice claimed that the latest reading indicated that the text of the Wire Act directly imposes a ban on all gambling forms, instead of referring to sports betting exclusively. This came at a time when the sports wagering industry has not yet been legal for a whole year. Moreover, this is a key time for the expansion of the online gambling industry onto new state territories.
The Main Dispute
While it may seem like the New Hampshire Lottery and the Department of Justice have nothing in common, the former was able to build a case on the potential threat by the re-interpreted restrictions.
On the other hand, the Department of Justice asked for full case dismissal claiming lack of grounds and substantial evidence for the presumed threat. What is more, they continued to carry out warnings regarding the implementation of the new Wire Act opinion. They gave operators and authoritative bodies a ‘grace period’ to get their matters in order and in accordance with the new provisions.
The Grammar Within
District Judge Paul Barbadoro surveyed both sides of the argument, identifying both approaches to the subject as different grammar methods. The NHLC is said to follow the “series-qualifier cannon”, meaning “on any sporting event” as a modifier applies to all previous provisions.
As for the DOJ’s interpretation identified as the “rule of the last antecedent”, this modifier applies only to the last provision, while all others have a universal scope over interactive gambling in the state.
The Final Word
With strong arguments at both ends, the judge has finally rationalized his decision through such a thing as context:
While the syntax employed by the Wire Act’s drafters does not suffice to answer whether 1084(a) is limited to sports gambling, a careful contextual reading of the Wire Act as a whole reveals that the narrower construction proposed by the 2011 OLC Opinion represents a better reading. The Act’s legislative history, if anything, confirms this conclusion.
Considering that the case has only been resolved in the District Court, an appeal is more than anticipated in the next relevant body – the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The move is most expected to come on behalf of the losing party – the DOJ, especially since the ruling still fails to define a crucial aspect – the scope.
More specifically, opinions differ between the plaintiff’s council (Matthew McGill) and the opinion of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. While the former claims that the sole decision of Judge Barbadoro makes the ruling valid nationwide, the latter believe it is all but applicable to the specific states. The new re-interpretation still poses a real threat to other legal online gambling states and those that are looking to enter the industry.
The Future of Online Gambling
At present, not much will be subject to changes, as both interstate lotteries and gambling will remain intact. Prospective markets like Pennsylvania and West Virginia should proceed with the industry introduction, and interstate poker can continue to blossom.
All in all, there is nothing but a threat as of yet, with more tangible effects to be identified later on, especially if the case reaches the Supreme Court, as many suspect.