Is the Wire Act Saga Coming to an End?
There’s been a bit of misinformation regarding the status of the Federal Wire Act. You may already know that the DOJ lost its appeal of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission lawsuit. However, a recent report from Online Poker Report erroneously stated that the case is over. That’s not the case.
The DOJ still has the opportunity to appeal its case to the US Supreme Court. However, the question is whether they will attempt to do so, especially since it is clear President Biden is not in favor of the DOJ’s old position.
First Circuit Court of Appeals Issues Mandate
Last Monday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a mandate regarding the case of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission vs. The U.S. Department of Justice. The ruling in the appeal sided with a lower court decision that the Federal Wire Act only applies to sports betting and not other forms of gambling.
The initial ruling was made on January 20, 2021, and this mandate finalizes the ruling. What that means is that this case cannot be retried at the First Circuit Court of Appeals. However, Online Poker Report initially stated that the Wire Act appeal was done. That is not the case.
The DOJ still has the option of taking the matter to the Supreme Court. This is similar to what New Jersey did regarding the federal ban on sports betting. They took the matter to the Supreme Court and ultimately won after losing at lower courts. As such, the DOJ has one more chance at appealing the case. The question is whether this will happen.
President Biden Does Not Side With DOJ Interpretation
While the chance of a DOJ appeal is a bit scary, what most have to remember is that they are still under the authority of the President of the United States. President Biden in on record stating that he supported the old interpretation of the Wire Act that saw it only apply to sports betting. That means that he will side with the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on the matter.
What could this mean for a DOJ appeal? It likely means that it will not happen. The Biden administration will likely either instruct the DOJ to abandon an appeal or the leadership in the DOJ will decide on their own not to pursue something that does not have the backing of the President. After all, the President can replace the leadership of the DOJ at will, and they would likely rather abandon an appeal than risk losing their position.
The Clock is Ticking on Appeal
While the DOJ can still appeal the case, the clock is now ticking on them to do so. Under federal law, once a case has been finalized, the losing party has 60 days to make an appeal to the US Supreme Court. That clock started on March 15th, meaning that the DOJ has until the middle of May to make an appeal.
With both a time limit and a President that is unlikely to support such a move, it is safe to assume that the Wire Act saga is about to come to a close. We have already seen several states make moves towards real money online casinos and other forms of casino gambling. Odds are that other states are still waiting for the saga to officially close before making moves to regulate online gambling.
The most ideal situation would be for the government to come to its senses and legalize online gambling across the country. However, that is a move that will likely too controversial for them to pursue at this time. Instead, we can expect iGaming regulation to continue at the state level for the foreseeable future.