New Hampshire Wins! Judge Says Wire Act Limited To Sports Betting
This is a developing story and will be updated.
New Hampshire has won its federal lawsuit against the US Department of Justice challenging the scope of the 1961 Wire Act.
Judge Paul Barbadoro issued a 60-page ruling on Monday, vacating a 2018 opinion that expanded its purview to include all forms of interstate online gambling. The previous interpretation from 2012, which now stands, limits its provisions to sports betting alone.
The judge granted plaintiffs the summary judgment they sought while denying a cross-motion from the defendants.
“I hereby declare that § 1084(a) of the Wire Act… applies only to transmissions related to bets or wagers on a sporting event or contest,” Barbadoro wrote in conclusion. “The 2018 OLC Opinion is set aside.”
The ruling is a shared victory for the small group of states with regulated online gambling, including Nevada and New Jersey. The DOJ planned to begin enforcing its new opinion in less than two weeks.
Judge vacates 2018 Wire Act opinion
Here’s the full text of the decision:DOJ wire act opinion
What does it mean for online gambling?
In the short term, not much changes with the status quo.
Online gambling is as legal as it’s ever been in the US, sports betting laws are unaffected, and it’s business as usual for state lotteries. Online lottery programs in six states were in particular jeopardy under the 2018 interpretation.
For the long term, though, this could help shake off the “chilling effect” brought on by the uncertainty surrounding online gambling. Pennsylvania and West Virginia can move forward toward launching their new industries, and states considering legalization have one less hurdle to consider.
This is also especially good news for online poker players, as it likely upholds the legality of multi-state poker compacts. Such a system allows, for example, players in New Jersey to compete in WSOP online bracelet events remotely.
What’s next for DOJ?
During arguments in April, the judge could already foresee a series of appeals following his decision. Here’s Barbadoro:
DOJ counsel Steven Myers did little to dispel the prediction during the ensuing discussion. Here’s an amusing exchange with the judge near the end of the proceedings:
The First Circuit Court of Appeals would be the next rung on the ladder, a court in which the plaintiffs have more precedent working in their favor. Though non-binding, the appellate judges previously applied a narrow interpretation of the Wire Act in deciding Lyons.
If the case does ultimately end up before SCOTUS, it could be several years before a complete resolution is reached.
More reading on Wire Act
Here are a few other resources: