PA, NJ Attorneys General Object to DOJ Legal Opinion on Wire Act

Attorney General
Pennsylvania and New Jersey AGs send letter opposing DOJ legal opinion on Wire Act.

30-second summary:

  • New Jersey and Pennsylvania attorneys general send letter to US Attorney General regarding new Wire Act legal opinion
  • They are opposed to the online gambling shift
  • Last month the DOJ opinion changed, indicating federal laws now cover all interstate online gambling
  • Previously the opinion covered only sports betting
  • Opinion reversal would affect online poker gameplay in states such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Nevada

The attorneys general of New Jersey and Pennsylvania have officially registered their opposition of the new Department of Justice opinion regarding the 1961 Wire Act.

In January, the DOJ made public that the Wire Act now affects all interstate online gambling. In the past, the Act only affected interstate online sports betting. The new legal opinion could affect online gambling in the two states as well as Nevada based on their current online poker operations.

Opposing the gambling shift

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro have written and signed a letter to US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. The letter sets out their opposition to the new opinion by the DOJ. The AGs called the new opinion “deeply troubling”.

The online gambling industry in several states is now in confusion based on the new ruling. In Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, online gambling has been state-sanctioned since 2013. Pennsylvania approved iGaming in late 2017 and is expected to launch it sometime this year.

Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada take part in shared player pooling regarding online poker. Players in each state can take part in online poker games via operators in the other states.

The iPoker industry would be affected by this new ruling. Online lottery gaming would also be affected by the opinion change.

Attorney General Grewal said: “The Justice Department’s latest action is wrong on the law and wrong for New Jersey. For five years, our gaming industry and our regulators have relied on the Justice Department’s promises to develop a strong online gaming industry that generates hundreds of millions of dollars, and is key to Atlantic City’s vitality.

“With the stroke of a pen, the Justice Department is trying to take that all away. I’m committed to standing up for New Jersey and challenging this misguided opinion.”

Grewal files FOI request

AG Grewal is taking action against the new opinion by the DOJ. He has filed a Freedom of Information request on behalf of his state. This filing seeks records involving the new opinion.

The 1961 Wire Act was first changed in 2011, by the Obama Administration. The reinterpretation allowed states to legalize online gambling, only affecting interstate online sports betting.

The new decision this year by the DOJ of the Trump Administration takes away the option of interstate gaming in the US. According to press reports, the pressure to rethink the legality of iGaming came from lobbying efforts by Sheldon Adelson and others.

Under the Freedom of Information request, Grewal will be seeking to have access to information regarding communications involving Adelson, lobbyists associated with him, and the Department of Justice involving online gaming and the relevant law.

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