As Philadelphia’s sports betting begins developing, the state’s taking all necessary precautions to avoid conflicting with the enactment of the now revised Wire Act of 1961.
Wire Act Reversal Must Be Reflected by PA Sports Betting Operators
Earlier this month, several events happened almost simultaneously. First, there was a rumor that the Department of Justice (DoJ) would seek to reverse a previous decision regarding the remit of the Wire Act issued in 2011.
Then, an official statement came, outlying a future in which the new Opinion could both apply and not apply. Shortly after, the DoJ decided to enforce the rule, with U.S. Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, signing the Opinion and enacting it – only there would be a 90-day grace period first.
This rapid succession of events barely left observers with enough time to make up their minds. Understandably, industry experts immediately highlighted the threat to cross-state online activities whereas others expressed doubt over the effectiveness of the restrictive legislation.
The American Gaming Association (AGA), one of the strongest opponents of federal meddling into the legality of the gaming industry, had this to say on Friday:
It is unfortunate that the Department of Justice departed from well-established practice in reversing its previous opinion without a compelling reason to do so.
However, the 2018 OLC opinion does not impact the ability for states and Tribes to legalize and regulate gaming on a state-by-state and tribal basis, or for companies to provide the exciting products and entertainment experiences our customers want.
Pennsylvania, the state to only now begins developing its sports betting, has hurried up in setting up some ground rules for its operators lest trouble strike later on.
Pennsylvania’s Regulators Speak Up
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) announced on Friday, January 18, that all operators preparing to provide online gaming options would have to report to the PGCB as to how the DoJ’s Opinion would affect their business.
Nobody really knows what will happen once the Opinion is enforced. Mr. Rosenstein has told DoJ attorneys not to take legal action based on the new legislation before the grace period is over. However, once that’s done and dusted, shared-liquidity schemes, such as the ones between Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey might actually be shut down by the federal government.
The PGCB is acutely aware of the no-no attitude towards cross-state gaming and that’s why it has urged operators to ensure that their bets are not available to gamers from other states, which is a complete about-face of the state’s own written laws which in fact allow inter-state betting.
Tweaks to the laws will be coming very quickly it seems.
What Moral Ground?
Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who has long led the anti-online campaign, has finally been successful in upsetting much of the progress made after 2006. Mr. Adelson has been acting as a “moral authority,” with his supporters – most of whom technologically illiterate – reiterating the stance than it was their responsibility to take action against what appeared to be an immoral & and threatening activity.
Yet, nobody seems open to the idea that if shared liquidity and cross-state gaming schemes are destroyed, players will simply choose offshore and most often unregulated portals.
There’ll be much division over the oncoming storm that is the OCL’s latest Opinion. Some have expressed hopes that a legal challenge to the validity of the Opinion would dismantle it sweepingly, but whatever battle lies ahead – it would not be an easy one.