US Attorney Generals Urge DoJ To Reconsider Wire Act Ambiguity

Published: 24th June 2021
Author: Joe Kizlauskas
Last Updated: 24th June 2021

Attorneys General from across the United States are urging the Department of Justice to withdraw their 2018 decision “reconsidering whether the Wire Act applies to non-sports gambling.”

27 attorney generals from across the country have signed a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting the withdrawal of a formal legal opinion issued during the Trump administration that found state-sanctioned online gambling, such as lotteries and casino games, could be prosecuted under federal law.

This 2018 DOJ judgement overturned an Obama-era DOJ stance, which argued that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting and thus exempted online lottery sales and other non-sports-related internet gambling from federal prosecution.

With the Trump-era DOJ opinion still in place, the letter claims that “substantial uncertainty” exists as to whether states and the industry may continue to use existing online gambling platforms while also investing in new products without fear of future criminal prosecution.

Importance of online gaming

Gurbir Grewal, New Jersey attorney general, said: “New Jersey’s legal gambling industry – and the many state services and programs supported by gaming revenue and tax dollars — would have been devastated in 2020 without online gaming.

“Internet gaming has for years been, and remains, an essential industry here, one the Department of Justice viewed since 2011 as perfectly legal until its baseless backtracking in 2018.” 

Adding: “It’s time for DOJ to lift the fog of ambiguity surrounding this important national issue, do the right thing and rescind the opinion it issued in 2018. 

“We maintained from the start that the Trump-era Wire Act ‘reinterpretation’ was politically-motivated and wrong on the law, and we’re proud to now join with our fellow states in calling for its official elimination.”

The AGs are requesting that the department formally withdraw the January 15, 2019, memorandum adopting the 2018 opinion, endorse the First Circuit’s view of the Wire Act as only pertaining to sports betting, and rescind the 2018 opinion.

Furthermore, the letter points out that Vice President Joe Biden has stated publicly that he disagrees with the Trump-era DOJ judgement and promised in 2019 to repeal it if elected president.

“In addition, President Biden has firmly stated his view that the Wire Act does not extend beyond sports betting and that the decisions in the First Circuit striking down the 2018 Opinion are correct,” it reads. 

“In July 2019, the President stated that, if elected, he ‘would reverse the White House opinion [on the Wire Act] that was then reversed and overruled by the [district] court. The court is correct. That should be the prevailing position.”

Adding “And in December 2019, the President reiterated that he did not ‘support adding unnecessary restrictions to the gaming industry like the Trump Administration has done.”

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About Joe Kizlauskas

Joe is a seasoned iGaming copywriter and speaker who has been in the business since 2015. He's written more words on all elements of iGaming than he likes to remember, and he's contributed material to a number of well-known brands. Joe may be seen playing 5 a side, at the gym or playing games on his Playstation when he is not writing.