UPDATE: Poker Alliance Actions Against DOJ Wire Act Reversal

Monday, March 4, 2019

It’s been more than six weeks since the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released its memo outlining their new opinion that the federal Wire Act applies to all forms of internet wagering, like poker, lotteries and casino games. While this misguided view of the Wire Act is ambiguous at best, the Poker Alliance and the entire iGaming industry has taken the threat very seriously.

Over the past several weeks there have been a number of steps taken to ensure that online poker, sports betting and other gaming can and will continue to be regulated by states. Poker Alliance has spoken with lawmakers in more than a dozen states and we have been encouraged by those discussions. Quite frankly, state lawmakers are undeterred by this new opinion. In fact, there have been more than 20 internet gaming bills (from iPoker to sports betting) introduced since the opinion was released on January 14th!

The DOJ action has been roundly criticized. Legal scholars who have examined the new interpretation say it stands on shaky legal ground and as expected the state of New Hampshire has filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge it. In addition, a trade association representing a broad cross-section of the iGaming industry has become party to the New Hampshire lawsuit. This will ensure that legal protections extend to online poker. We anticipate that hearings for this case will begin in mid-April. We will continue to update you.

Moreover, the press and federal and state lawmakers have aggressively called the opinion out for what it is: a favor to Sheldon Adelson who is an influential political donor.

Mark Brenner, president of Poker Alliance, decried this type of “crony capitalism” in an investigative news story by The Intercept.

“Make no mistake, DOJ’s Wire Act reversal was a well-coordinated attack against the regulated iGaming, sports wagering, and poker industries carried out by Las Vegas special interests seeking to protect their own bottom line,” he said.

Other publications like the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have also exposed the fact that Sheldon Adelson and his team of lobbyists and lawyers have been actively working to persuade the DOJ to reverse its opinion on the Wire Act.

States have also stepped forward to defend their regulated intrastate gaming systems. The Attorneys General of Pennsylvania and New Jersey sent a strongly worded letter to the DOJ urging them to withdraw the new opinion. And most recently, Representative Jamie Raskin (MD) used a Congressional hearing to grill acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker about the apparent improper influence that favored Sheldon Adelson’s interests.

Needless to say, much has happened since the DOJ announcement. Poker Alliance will continue to work with industry and the media to ensure that player’s rights are at the forefront of the discussion. And, of course, we will continue to update you on the latest developments. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and on Facebook for real-time news and info.

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