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New Federal Court Ruling On Wire Act Is Big Win For Lotteries, Online Poker Compacts

by John Brennan, USBETS


Two years of confusion created by a Department of Justice memo were erased on Wednesday when, in a 49-page ruling, a U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals panel found that The Wire Act of 1961 only applies to interstate sports betting.

The New Hampshire Lottery had filed a lawsuit after a November 2018 DOJ Opinion held that The Wire Act was not so limited in scope.

That led to uncertainty about the validity of multi-state lotteries and online poker compacts that clearly crossed state lines — but also state lotteries, because a simple purchase of a lottery ticket might technically involve for a moment technology that operates in another state.

The 2018 memo seemingly came out of the blue, leading many U.S. gaming expansion advocates to point the finger at the Trump administration for seeming to curry favor with Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas billionaire who died last week. Adelson was the leading opponent of online casino wagering as well as the national Republican Party’s top individual donor.

New Hampshire was one of several states to begin offering online lottery play in the wake of the Obama administration’s 2011 memo that clarified — for a time — that The Wire Act only applied to sports betting.

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