The federal government isn’t backing off its proposition to use the Wire Act to ban cross-border sports betting and online gambling. In a recent filing submitted to an appeals court, the Department of Justice argued in support of an interstate gambling ban.
DOJ makes its first move
In its filing with the First Circuit Court of Appeals, the Department of Justice sought a ban on all types of interstate gambling, citing an interpretation of the Wire Act. The DOJ took a similar stance during a lower court hearing earlier this year, but it was ultimately rejected. The lower court ruling helped online gambling operators in the US who feared an existential threat because of a cross-border gambling ban.
Despite an initial setback, the federal government won’t give up on the idea of stopping interstate gambling so soon. It might be planning to take the matter to the Supreme Court if nothing works in its favor.
The government’s position was established in 2018 when the Office of Legal Counsel of the DOJ revised a seven-year-old decision that didn’t cover real money internet poker games, online lotteries and casino games under the Federal Wire Act of 1961. The Act was created to fight organized crime in the 60s.
The Legal Counsel decided in 2011 that the wordings in the statue applied narrowly to sports betting. However, the new interpretation was challenged by the New Hampshire State Lottery and several of its state counterparts.
The complications of the case
According to the DOJ’s filing in the appeals court, the Wire Act can be broadly interpreted to include all types of online gambling. It suggests that the district court committed a fundamental error by suggesting that the pre-decisional advice to the executive was a final agency to be reviewed under law. The government suggests that it doesn’t face any “credible threat of prosecution” because the plaintiffs don’t have a standing in the case. It highlighted the attorney general’s memo that implied that the DOJ has no position on the impact of the new interpretation on state lotteries.
The department followed similar arguments at the District Court of New Hampshire, but Judge Paul Barbadoro didn’t follow the statement. He said that the Wire Act had ambiguous wordings and a narrow interpretation of the act was incorrect. The DOJ suggests that the court should have dismissed the case because of a lack of jurisdiction.