Nevada and Ohio Overhaul Legislation to Resist DOJ

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Department of Justice building's signature.
  • Nevada and Ohio change gambling laws
  • Lawmakers exclude “mobile” and “online” mentions
  • NV and OH may need to help New Hampshire and New Jersey

As the official enforcement of the DOJ Wire Act Opinion draws nearer, states are scurrying to introduce changes to their gambling frameworks to avoid confrontation.

Nevada and Ohio Try to Avoid Confrontation with DOJ

With the US Department of Justice still debating whether to enforce the re-interpreted Wire Act Opinion, Nevada and Ohio may be edging out of a direct conflict with DOJ. Unlike New Hampshire and New Jersey who flashed their teeth at the Department, Ohio and Nevada have opted down another route, choosing to re-write their laws instead.

Both states will be introducing changes that will change the wording of their current framework and hopefully pass under the radar of DOJ’s attorneys. The DOJ saga began late in 2018 when the Opinion was shown for the first time. It took until January 16, 2019 for the Department to sign it into law.

Unlike New Hampshire and New Jersey who flashed their teeth at the Department, Ohio and Nevada have opted down another route, choosing to re-write their laws instead.

Effectively, DOJ has changed the nature of the Wire Act. If in the past only sports betting was targeted by it, this now applies to online gambling as well. The DOJ has given no good reason as to why this is the case, but the no plausible explanation has come.

Some have seen the long hand of Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul and an age-old opponent of online gambling in all its forms. The re-interpretation of the Wire Act won’t affect sports betting, thanks to the US Supreme Court Decision from May, 2018, which has struck down PASPA and given states the power to decide on whether they want to support sports betting.

Changing the Language to Avoid DOJ Regulation

Ohio is making the first step by removing words such as “online” and “mobile” from its legal framework, which will give the state more leeway when it comes to interpreting and defending itself against a hypothetical lawsuit. Representative Dave Greenspan had the following to say about the wire act:

“The reason we went with that language, versus ‘mobile’ and ‘online,’ is, once again, ‘devices,’ ‘personal devices,’ and ‘software’ are broad terms. We don’t know 5-10 years from now what the technology may be, what the delivery system of the product may look like. So we want to provide a broad context by using those phrases: devices, personal devices, and software. It is a catch-all so anything new that becomes available falls under this definition. If we use the more narrow definition of mobile/online, a device might not fall under that definition. I wanted to make you aware that the Wire Act is a concern as it relates to interstate gambling, interstate sports wagering. The lottery commission, as they currently operate, is on a closed-loop system, effectively an intranet. There are ways that we can offer a platform in Ohio that would meet the requirements of the Wire Act.”

No Online Gambling in Nevada

Nevada is adopting the exact same strategy, excising all mentions of online gambling and focusing instead on coaching the language of its laws in friendlier terms. Nevada will not feature “mobile gaming” as a separate gaming category and will lump it together with the slot machines and other games that can be found on the brick-and-mortar floors of physical casinos.

Neither Ohio nor Nevada can be sure whether the DOJ would be satisfied by that decision. If the DOJ wants to put an end to online gambling, then what Ohio and Nevada do would certainly not sit well with them, which could mean a court battle nevertheless.

However, DOJ could also act smart and avoid confrontation with NV and OH while taking aim at NH and NJ instead. Picking one fight at a time would be the best course of action for DOJ. Will NV and OH answer the call to arms if New Jersey and New Hampshire get into hot water with the Department, though ?

A unified front may be needed for the survival of the industry.

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