The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been the first to budge in the saga surrounding the latest Wire Act Opinion. Following a number of complaints and lawsuits, the DOJ is pushing back the grace period by additional 60 days.
The Wire Act’s Opinion Explained
It was in January, 2019, when US deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein signed a newly-revised Opinion on the Wire Act into law. The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) had sat down to examine a previous decision dating back to 2011, establishing that the Wire Act interpretation was erroneous and therefore it should have been extended to cover online gambling.
That caused an uproar not only in the groups and states supporting iGaming, online poker, and sports betting, but even among respected journalists who suspected machinations behind the OLC’s decision. The evidence supporting the re-interpretation was scant, too, causing a proper opposition among states, trade groups and individuals.
In these dubious circumstances, the DOJ has been trying to convince everyone that the latest Opinion has been necessary to better reflect the gaming landscape in the United States. However, multiple parties have found this argument very difficult to believe.
DOJ to Delay Wire Act Opinion by 60 Days
Face with stern opposition, the DOJ has been forced to re-consider its stance, but only just. An initial 90-day grace period expires on April 15. Once this three-month window closes, the DOJ attorneys can start building cases against states that allow interstate gaming of any form.
Interstate gaming is mostly lotteries these days, and although there has been no indication that the DOJ would consider going after the state’s most profitable ventures in the gaming business, some fears still remain.
As to casinos and iGaming operators looking to expand online, they will have to tread carefully, because DOJ will be coming down hard on any such venture. Take for example Pennsylvania, which is only just about to launch its iGaming industry in full.
PA was supposed to open doors early in 2019, but following a meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) last Thursday, it has been decided to postpone until Q3.
So, what’s the newly extended delay for? The DOJ will give additional 60 days before it implements its decision and starts potentially prosecuting states and businesses. This changes the timeline from April 15 to June 14.
In other words, the changes in legislation will nearly coincide with the launch of Pennsylvania’s gaming industry in earnest. Although the extension hasn’t been announced officially yet, this is expected to happen at some point this week.
Opposition in the Form of Litigation
And as DOJ has been debating, states such as New Hampshire have been on the move. The New Hampshire Lottery Commission has already launched a lawsuit, joined by Neopollard Interactive and Pollard Banknote. iDEA Growth, a trade group, also launched its own lawsuit.
Overall, the DOJ is unlikely to go after lotteries. In Pennsylvania, the lottery fetches the whopping $4 billion. Even if the DOJ doesn’t go after lotteries, states should stay united against the Wire Act’s Opinion.