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Wire Act Interpretation is Challenged by Attorney Generals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

02/08/2019

A new interpretation of the Wire Act by the Department of Justice has the attorney generals of Pennsylvania and New Jersey perturbed. The ranking law enforcement officials from both states recently joined forces to pen a letter to the DOJ expressing their displeasure. 

Attorney Generals Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania and Gurbir Grewal of New Jersey oversee legal matters in states which have taken an open stance on online gambling. The two men are upset that the Department of Justice is seeking to apply the Wire Act to all forms of online gambling. The previous position of the DOJ was that only interstate sports betting could be regulated under the Wire Act. 

Pennsylvania and New Jersey are looking to benefit from reciprocal agreements that would allow residents in one state to play online casino games for real money in another where online gambling is legal. Residents of New Jersey could gamble at online venues regulated by Pennsylvania and vice versa. The new opinion regarding the Wire Act by the Department of Justice effectively nixes that option. 

Shapiro and Grewal serve as attorney generals in the largest US gambling markets behind Nevada. It is their contention that the new opinion will render lotteries such as the Mega Millions and Powerball illegal. The men also believe that each of their states stands to lose vital gaming revenues, and that some workers will lose their jobs. 

As reported by Cardplayer.com, Shapiro and Grewal wrote that "this decision puts jobs and livelihoods at risk for the thousands of people who work in the online gaming industry and jeopardizes critical state funding for the public good." 

The attorney generals are also concerned that Nevada casino magnate Sheldon Adelson played a role in getting the Department of Justice to amend its interpretation of the wire act. Both men have directly accused Adelson of lobbying for the new opinion. Adelson has long made his opposition to online gaming clear. The CEO of the Las Vegas Sands regularly opposes online gambling in the US, and many people believe that Adelson is acting in self-interest. There is, however, little evidence to suggest that legalized online gambling in the US would impact Nevada's gaming revenues. 

A Freedom of Information Act request has been filed by Grewal in an effort to determine whether or not Sheldon Adelson lobbied for the DOJ change. 

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other states where forms of online gambling are legal only have 90 days to bring their operations in compliance with the new interpretation of the Wire Act. A failure to do so could ultimately lead to prosecution of online casino operators by the DOJ. States affected by the ruling could lose millions in online gambling revenue.

 
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