IGT prevails in DOJ lawsuit; Wire Act only applies to sports betting

Sep 24, 2022, 9:26 am (10 comments)

Online Gambling

Lotteries and poker are not controlled by Wire Act

A fight spanning more than a decade over varying interpretations of the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 may finally be reaching its end after a Rhode Island District Court judge ruled that the US Department of Justice must formally state that the law only applies to sports betting.

The ruling, a significant victory for online poker in the US, was made in a November 2021 lawsuit filed by International Game Technology (IGT) against the DOJ in an attempt to get the justice department to clarify its position on the Wire Act and requesting "a declaratory judgment that the Department of Justice may not prosecute them for non-sports betting under the Wire Act."

In a summary judgement issued on Sept. 15, District Judge William E. Smith ruled in favor of IGT and denied the DOJ's motion to dismiss the case, allowing the gambling company to freely operate across dozens of states without fear of federal prosecution.

Siding with IGT

IGT filed its lawsuit after a 2019 suit between the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and the DOJ. In that case, a Federal District Court judge ruled against a Trump-era DOJ interpretation of the Wire Act stating that the law applies to all forms of gambling — a reversal of the DOJ's 2011 opinion under President Barack Obama — and the US District Court later upheld that ruling.

The justice department accepted the court's decision and let a June 2021 deadline to file an appeal with the Supreme Court pass by. However, the DOJ refused to formally denounce the 2018 opinion, leaving plenty of room for worry among stakeholders and players that the DOJ could flip its position.

In its lawsuit, IGT requested "a declaratory judgment that... the Wire Act does not apply to IGT's non-sports gaming operations," noting that the New Hampshire ruling was narrow in scope and arguing that IGT was at risk of prosecution from the DOJ.

The DOJ maintained that there was no risk of IGT being prosecuted. But Judge Smith disagreed in his summary judgment, noting that "the DOJ's shift in positions has created substantial uncertainty for broad swaths of IGT's business."

"Like the NHLC plaintiffs, IGT 'should not have to operate under a dangling sword of indictment while DOJ purports to deliberate without end the purely legal question it had apparently already answered and concerning which it offers no reason to expect an answer favorable to the plaintiffs,'" Smith wrote.

Smith also argued that "there is no question that a judgment 'will serve a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the legal relations in issue' and afford significant relief 'from the uncertainty, insecurity and controversy giving rise to the proceeding.'"

Smith's ruling was unambiguous and left little room for interpretation: "The Court declares that, as to the parties now before it, the Wire Act applies only to 'bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest.'"

What it means for online poker

IGT's victory in the DOJ lawsuit could have broader implications for the US online poker market, which has remained ruptured since 2011's Black Friday. When the DOJ does abrogate the 2018 decision, there will be no question that the Wire Act applies narrowly to sports betting and does not apply to poker, lottery or other forms of online gambling.

Such clarity on the Wire Act could clear the way for more states to legalize online poker, joining the likes of New Jersey, Nevada, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

It could also encourage states that already have legal online poker to combine player pools across state lines through interstate poker compacts. One such compact is the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), which Michigan joined earlier this year.

Whatever happens, the ruling the IGT suit clearly legitimizes the DOJ's 2011 ruling that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting, while also doing away with the 2018 reversal of that ruling.

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Comments

Tony Numbers's avatarTony Numbers

Does this ruling open the door to having an ADW account with NY Lottery?  Funding the account with checking/ and or wire transfer. I do that now with the horses.

Bleudog101

Maybe this will get the wheels turning and get rid of that stupid law preventing lottery ticket sales across state lines.

Mata Garbo

Great job by the IGT keeping the lawsuit alive until the judge was able to rule. Just because someone "says" you are in no danger of being prosecuted does not mean they cannot change their mind. Having a court order to back you up lets everyone sleep better.

🥇🥇🥳

Think's avatarThink

I remember back in the day when you could sign up for subscriptions from other states by mail and I  remember when that was banned.

 

I would certainly get tickets from other states from time to time to try my luck with them.  I am sure a couple of states would get inundated with out of state buyers because they have the best games in the country.

Stack47

Could get interesting if players in one state could play Online in another state from outside state lines. Never could figure the logic of legally betting on horse racing on tracks all over the U.S. and the World but can't play Internet poker.

Don't expect to see one state lottery cashing tickets purchased in another state regardless of how the DOJ decides.

mypiemaster's avatarmypiemaster

Back in the days, I used to play THE LOTTER  all over the world with plastics. A push by a billionaire casino mogul, in a wheel chair, initials S.G.A. was instrumental in outlawing of most online gambling. The old fart was just flexing his greedy muscles. If they can fix it , I will only be playing lottery subs in anonymous states.

Eighty0uts778's avatarEighty0uts778

Quote: Originally posted by Bleudog101 on Sep 24, 2022

Maybe this will get the wheels turning and get rid of that stupid law preventing lottery ticket sales across state lines.

I agree

Stack47

Quote: Originally posted by Bleudog101 on Sep 24, 2022

Maybe this will get the wheels turning and get rid of that stupid law preventing lottery ticket sales across state lines.

I've bought and cashed tickets in other states and there is no law preventing players from doing that. And only a few state lotteries offers Online play.

Which "stupid law" do you want repealed?

JeetKuneDoLotto's avatarJeetKuneDoLotto

IGT prevailed?

When do the American People Prevail?   "Come on Man!  Think about.   I am serious."   

Why do they even call it the "WIRE" act?   Its not because Hunter got a hot a hot dose of crak laced with fenttanly.

Will the American People Prevail When Joe Biden gives another 40 Billion to Ukcrania?  Or when the Strategic Oil R

eserves are down to around the level of Joe Bidens IQ and EQ.... Say...47 Barrels of Oil on the wall?

I am just kidding.  Joe Biden is a genius. A thief so great and good and conniving that even Donald Trump could admire his skill.

lottointuitive's avatarlottointuitive

So we basically get confirmation for we already know.

"The Court declares that, as to the parties now before it, the Wire Act applies only to 'bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest.'"

"the Wire Act applies narrowly to sports betting and does not apply to poker, lottery or other forms of online gambling."

It is still completely legal to play the lottery across state lines online and offline.

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