Online Gambling Potentially Impacted by New Justice Department Opinion

The Wire Act was enacted in 1961. That statute makes it a criminal offense to transmit information that seeks to promote interstate or foreign wagering.

Fast-forward to September, 2011: the Obama-era Justice Department rendered an opinion that only sports betting came with the ambit of the Wire Act. Prior to that, the Justice Department applied the statute to non-sports gambling.

Fast-even-more-forward: the Trump-era Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel just reversed the Obama-era Department opinion that confined application of the Wire Act solely to sports gambling, according to the Washington Post.

Thus, according to the Post, while a variety of state and federal laws, notably including the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, make unlawful the majority of online gambling, prosecutors for the Justice Department now will be able to include the Wire Act within their arsenal to go after online gambling operations.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued a memo postponing implementation of the opinion for ninety days, giving those operations that might not be in compliance with the Wire Act time to adjust to come into compliance.

So, what is the bottom line?

That is not entirely clear. Some people who have studied the issue do not believe that the affect of the Justice Department’s reversal in this context will be far-reaching and severe. On the other hand, others believe that the Department did this for a reason – namely, to have a greater ability to shut down online gambling.