DoJ prepares appeal against Wire Act ruling

16 August 2019

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has finally confirmed its intention to appeal the New Hampshire court ruling that set aside its revised opinion on the 1961 Wire Act.

The Department has filed a notice to appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, seeking to overturn the verdict issued by New Hampshire District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro in June.

Following a legal challenge by New Hampshire Lottery against the DoJ’s revised stance on the Act, Barbadoro ultimately ruled that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting.

The 1961 Act prohibits the use of wire communication facilities to transmit “bets or wagers” across state lines, and has been the subject of much scrutiny and dispute over the scope of these prohibitions.

A 2011 interpretation from the DoJ concluded that the Act only applied to sports betting – a move which paved the way for the launch of online gaming and lottery products in a number of states. However, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) took a different view in January this year.

An opinion written by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Engel stated that while the Wire act was “not a model of artful drafting”, “all but one of its prohibitions sweep beyond sports gambling”.

While seen as a major victory for opponents of online gaming, the interpretation created huge uncertainty for state governments, licensed operators and state lotteries. This prompted a challenge from the New Hampshire Lottery, backed by a number of other states, and industry trade association iDEA Growth.

Read the full story on iGB North America.