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US Online Poker to Benefit from Latest Wire Act Ruling

Written By: Maya Michaels | February 5, 2021 | Posted In Poker News

The New Hampshire Lottery Commission has won its case against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the latter’s 2018 revised opinion on the Wire Act. Again.

As first reported on Twitter by Jeff Ifrah, a lawyer affiliated with the litigation, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiff. It thus upholds the decision of a lower court, reaffirming that the DOJ’s new interpretation of the law is invalid.

Ifrah serves as council for IDEA Growth, an association of operators, payment processors and other companies related to online gambling. Subsequent to our publication of this article, IDEA released its own statement including commentary from Ifrah.

“This landmark decision is a victory for states’ rights; for clear reading of federal statutes, and for the gaming industry and its customers,” he said.  “Uncertainty surrounding the ambit of the Wire Act has been a cloud over the internet gaming industry since 2018.  Today’s decision will hopefully put to rest the question of whether federal law prohibits states from licensing internet gaming within their borders and compacting with each other to allow such gaming on an interstate basis.”

“DOJ doesn’t often lose litigation over the meaning of federal statutes. However, the OLC’s 2018 opinion was so misguided that the court resoundingly rejected it.”

The Wire Act was originally meant to prevent the use of the phone or other wire-based communication to place sports bets between states. In recent years, it has been interpreted to apply to the internet as much as the phone system.

Now, the DOJ could still appeal the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, but there’s no guarantee that it will do this, or that the Supreme Court would agree to hear it.

Moreover, the change in leadership in the US will help matters considering that the president Joe Biden has indicated that he does not support federal overreach and considers the Wire Act opinion to be an example of that. He may direct the Department not to pursue the case further.

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