DOJ Wire Act Debate Brings Mega Millions Lottery Into View
February 26, 2019
Last month, the US Department of Justice announced it was considering reversing the Department's 2011 opinion regarding the 1961 Wire Act. The 2011 opinion stated the DOJ found the 1961 Wire Act to only be applicable to funding accounts via wire transfer for the purpose of sports gambling. By interpretation, that means it would be legal to use credit cards, debit cards, Western Union and bank transfers to fund accounts for the purpose of online casino gambling and the purchase of lottery tickets.
The notion the DOJ would come back eight years later and reverse its prior opinion has thrown the entire online gambling industry a big curve ball. Currently, several state Attorney General are banding together, prepared to sue the DOJ.
With the announcement that the world record holding $1.537 billion winning Mega Millions lottery ticket is still outstanding, it brought visibility to the five states that currently allow its residents to purchase Mega Millions lottery ticket online. As a point of reference, those states include Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and New Hampshire. If the DOJ does reverse its prior decision, it would certainly have an impact on lottery ticket sales in all five states.
As for the outstanding lottery ticket, the winner has until April 21st of this year to claim their winnings. Since the winning ticket was sold at a convenience store in South Carolina, that state would stand to lose $60 million in tax revenues from the unclaimed winnings. Furthermore, The uncollected winnings would revert back to the 44 member states. The fund's would be placed in each respective state's coffers to be used as prescribed by law in each state.
This would not be the first time a large winning lottery ticket expired without a winner presenting the ticket. In 2002, a winning Mega Millions jackpot ticket worth $68 million passed the deadline, costing a New York resident their pot of gold. New York was again the victim state when a $31 million ticket went unclaimed from a 2007 drawing. Finally, Georgia played host to an unclaimed lottery ticket worth $77 million in 2011.
While there may have been advantages to waiting until 2019 to cash the current $1.537 billion jackpot ticket, it's now well into 2019, an indication the ticket may be lost. With a little less than 3 month remaining until expiration, there will be a lot of state legislatures that will be keeping its eyes on the target date of April 21, 2019.