The online poker and online gambling scenes in the United States have become even more controversial following the announcement of a new Department of Justice opinion that reverses a previous ruling from 2011. The announcement which was made on Monday stated that the 1961 Wire Act, which prohibits the electronic transmission of interstate wagers, applies to all forms of online gambling and not just sports betting – the 2011 opinion, on the other hand, concluded that only sports betting was under the Wire Act’s domain.
When it was announced, the 2011 Department of Justice opinion gave the states the green light to regulate their online gaming and online poker industries – as it stands New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada have thriving online gaming industries and Pennsylvania is on the verge of launching its own industry. These industries, by themselves, are not in any way under the domain of the Wire Act, but the three states that have had operational online gaming industries have in recent times formed a partnership that combines their player pools across state lines and it is this partnership that the DOJ is targeting.
Even so, strict enforcement is rather unlikely. It has been speculated that industries that currently rely on interstate wagering will be given a 90-day grace period before action is taken but the issue is likely to be contested in a federal court of law before then. Also, if history is anything to go by, the federal court remains to be a favorable forum for the proponents of online gambling especially considering that the Circuit Court of Appeal has sided with the gaming industry on two separate accounts by ruling that the Wire Act does indeed apply to sports betting only.
The impacts of the new opinion are likely going to be felt the most among states that are just now making progress toward legalizing online gambling and online poker – regulatory efforts will be hampered significantly. It is likely that these states may have to pause these efforts until the impacts of the new DOJ is determined.
Huge Win for Anti-Online Gambling Lobbyists
The reversal of the 2011 opinion was applauded by Sheldon Adelson, the chief executive of Las Vegas Sands, who has been quite vocal about his dislike for internet gambling. In fact, the billionaire casino owner has even been funding a lobbyist group that seeks to have online gambling activities in the United States banned. It is widely believed that Adelson and the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, the lobbyist group he has been funding, were a major a catalyst behind the new Department of Justice Opinion.