AGA allays concerns over US DoJ Wire Act opinion

21 January 2019

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has attempted to address concerns over the US Department of Justice's revised opinion on the Wire Act by insisting that states and tribes are still able to offer regulated online gaming.

The revised opinion, which was published last week to clarify an opinion on the Wire Act that was issued in 2011, stated that the law’s prohibition should apply to all forms of gambling in the US, and not just sports betting.

Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) Stephen Engel issued the revised opinion in response to a request from the DoJ’s Criminal Division to reconsider the original opinion, which paved the way for the roll-out of online gambling in a number of US states.

Concerns have been raised as to how the decision will impact those states that currently offer regulated online gambling. However, Sara Slane, senior vice-president of public affairs at the AGA, said there is no immediate need for operators and their partner companies to be worried.

“It is unfortunate that the Department of Justice departed from well-established practice in reversing its previous opinion without a compelling reason to do so,” Slane said.

“However, the 2018 OLC opinion does not impact the ability for states and tribes to legalise and regulate gaming on a state-by-state and tribal basis, or for companies to provide the exciting products and entertainment experiences our customers want.”

Slane argued that gambling is one of the most highly regulated industries in the US, saying more than “4,000 regulators and billions of dollars are allocated to compliance” in the sector.

“We will work with all stakeholders to preserve the ability of states and tribes to regulate gaming, and we encourage [the] DOJ to investigate and shut down illegal, unregulated gambling operators who prey on consumers,” she said.

The Wire Act, also known as the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, was drafted on the recommendation of then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy to make interstate gambling illegal in a bid to tackle organised crime in the US. His brother, President John F. Kennedy, signed the act into law on September 13, 1961.

Responding to the revised opinion, Regulus Partners analysts said the decision could lead to years of uncertainty for tribal gaming groups, online poker, daily fantasy sports and iLottery operators.