DOJ Says Wire Act Only Applies to Sports Betting

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The US Department of Justice made public today a memo that clarifies its position on the Wire Act of 1961 and says it only applies to sports betting.

The memo was written as a response to requests from the states of Illinois and New York regarding interstate lottery sales back in September but only released to the public today.

In it the DOJ reveals that its legal position, according to Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz, is that “interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a ‘sporting event of contest’ fall outside the reach of the Wire Act.”

In theory, this moves online poker out of the scope of the Wire Act although no further clarification by the DOJ regarding poker was offered.

THe DOJ also made it clear this was not inherently related to the enforcement of the UIGEA.

The conclusion of the memo is included below:

“Given that the Wire Act does not reach interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a ‘sporting event or contest,’ and that the state-run lotteries proposed by New York and Illinois do not involve sporting events or contests, we conclude that the Wire Act does not prohibit the lotteries described in these proposals.

“In light of that conclusion, we need not consider how to reconcile the Wire Act with UIGEA, because the Wire Act does not apply in this situation.

“Accordingly, we express no view about the proper interpretation or scope of UIGEA.”

Online poker advocates such as the Poker Player's Alliance on jumping on the revelation, encouraging the Federal government to take it one step further and initiate fully legislated, interstate online poker.

“State by state licensing and regulation," said former Senator and PPA member Alphonse D'Amato in a statement, "could result in a balkanized online poker world where players across the nation would be limited in their choices of where and against whom they could play.

"This could potentially reduce the number of total players, reducing revenues state lawmakers project from this activity.

"At the same time, it would deter entrepreneurs from entering the online poker market, as there would essentially be 50 different sets of laws and rules to which they would have to adhere.

"We urge members of Congress to act quickly based on today’s announcement and pass legislation like H.R. 2366 to license and regulate online poker at the federal level."

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