Trade body latest to challenge Wire Act opinion

25 February 2019

The iDEA Growth trade association, which supports the expansion of regulated iGaming across the US, has become the latest organisation to submit a legal challenge to the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) revised opinion on the Wire Act.

In January, the revised opinion, issued by Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Stephen Engel, was issued following a request from the DoJ’s Criminal Division to reconsider the 2011 ruling, which paved the way for the roll-out of online gambling in a number of US states.

Under the revised opinion, the Wire Act would prohibit all forms of gambling, and not just sports betting.

Ifrah Law, representing iDEA Growth, said it will file the lawsuit today (February 25) against the DoJ in New Hampshire’s District Court.

Jeff Ifrah, lead attorney in the suit brought by iDEA Growth, said: “We trust that the New Hampshire Court will give appropriate weight to judicial precedent over political factors in making its decision, a decision sure to have a major impact on a fast-growing industry poised to offer significant economic benefits to states across the country.”

“The January 14, 2019, opinion glosses over case law precedent and largely ignores the legislative history that accompanied the Wire Act, which supports the original 2011 Memo.”

The lawsuit represents the third legal challenge since the revised opinion was announced last month.

NeoPollard Interactive, the technology and service provider of the New Hampshire state iLottery system, also filed a lawsuit in the New Hampshire District Court.

The New Hampshire Lottery Commission, represented by the state attorney general’s office, has filed a related challenge against the DoJ, having complained that the revised opinion is not “faithful to the text, structure, purpose of legislative history the Wire Act”.

The Wire Act was originally drafted in the early 1960s to make interstate gambling illegal in a bid to tackle organised crime in the US.

The rescinding of the 2011 opinion was welcomed by the Campaign to Stop Internet Gambling, the anti-iGaming pressure group backed by Las Vegas Sands chief executive Sheldon Adelson.

However, Sara Slane, senior vice-president of public affairs at the American Gaming Association, 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 last month.