As the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit returns to session, all parties involved in the Wire Act case are eagerly awaiting for the next step in the proceedings. A series of dates have been lined up for briefs and replies, with oral arguments expected to ensue soon afterward.
The story of the Wire Act interpretation slowly unfolds in what is likely to be a flow of events leading to Judge Barbadoro’s prediction – the Supreme Court.
- First briefs by DOJ and US Attorney General to be submitted by November 12th.
- Oral arguments expected by early 2020, possibly even January.
- What is now a Court of Appeals case is presumed to reach the Supreme Court.
US Court of Appeals Sets the Schedule
With the court back into session, the Wire Act case is back into the judicial system of the US, as opposing parties fight to have their interpretation beat the other ones’. Following an appeal made by the losing party during the initial process in District Court, this November 12th is the official and final date for briefs and further documentation filling by both the DOJ and the US Attorney General William P. Barr.
The Lottery Joins The Cause
Following this date, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, along with other state lotteries and vendors that have joined its cause, will need to reply within 30 days following the brief. Another 21 days after that are provided for the DOJ and US Attorney General to submit their replies.
The Clock Is Ticking
If the parties stretch their timelines thin to the deadlines, we are bound to see this finish just before the end of 2019. Oral arguments regularly get heard during the first week of each month in the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. That said, the January projections will most likely come to fruition in February 2020.
The US Court of Appeals has 10 appellate judges so far considered to be most likely to hear this case. Because they will present oral arguments before a panel of three judges, it is expected to be some combination of the following:
- Jeffrey R. Howard
- Juan R. Torruella
- Bruce M. Selya
- Sandra L. Lynch
- Norman H. Stahl
- Kermit V. Lipez
- Michael Boudin
- William J. Kayatta, Jr.
- David J. Barron
- O. Rogeriee Thompson
Out of these, Howard, Lynch, Torruella, Barron, and Kayatta have a better chance of sitting on this hearing since the other five are essentially semi-retired.
The Wire Act Saga
The Wire Act, originally dating back to 1969, was first brought to legislators’ attention by New York and Illinois state lotteries in 2011. They demanded an accurate interpretation that would make it clear whether interstate online sales of lottery tickets were illegal or not.
Back then, the Obama administration ruled it out as legal, deeming the Wire Act’s interpretation to refer to interstate sports betting only.
However, in late 2018, a memo from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) proposed a new interpretation. They wanted lotteries, poker pools, and any other interstate shared gambling activities as illegal.
New Hampshire Strikes Back
Feeling under threat, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission responded with a lawsuit and won the case by the summer of 2019. The US District Court handling the matter, presided by Judge Paul Barbadoro, ruled in the lotteries’ favor. Nevertheless, he also used the opportunity to point out the puzzle that is the Wire Act, and the likelihood of it reaching the US Supreme Court through appeals.
How Does It Look For The Wire Act?
As it stands, the prediction is coming along nicely and seems to be worrying all segments in the world of online gambling. If the new opinion passes, it will also put an end on pooled poker action, known as the sole solution for sustainable and vibrant poker traffic in the US so far.