Oral arguments in the Wire Act case involving the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and the United States Department of Justice went before the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on June 18.
The final verdict in the case could form as legal basis on the future of online gambling in the country.
The ongoing saga came as a result of a 2018 OLC opinion, which concluded that the Wire Act also applied to other forms of interstate gambling, other than sports betting. This contradicts an earlier opinion issued in 2011, which specifically targeted sports-related gambling.
Last year, a federal district court in New Hampshire ruled in favor of the state lottery, upholding the 2011 OLC opinion. This prompted the DOJ to bring the matter to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
The hearing on June 18, which was held via audio conference due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions, came before a three-judge panel comprised of Sandra Lynch, William Kayatta Jr. and Juan R. Torruella. Counsel for the DOJ Jeffrey E. Sandberg, as well as Anthony J. Galdieri and Matthew D. McGill, representing New Hampshire Lottery, presented their oral arguments.
Online Poker – The Real Target
MacGill suggested the 2018 Wire Act opinion could have been influenced by high-profile business magnate Sheldon Adelson who has long been lobbying against the expansion of internet gambling, including online poker. Billionaire Adelson is the chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
The way things stand at the moment, it looks like there could be a fresh assault on online poker going forward. We will follow further developments in the case, which could likely reach the Supreme Court.
No Threat of Prosecution Against State Lotteries
Sandberg argued that the 2018 opinion did not single out state lotteries and their vendors, and therefore the DOJ “will not pursue” enforcement, and lotteries will not be subject to prosecution. But the attorney made mention of other entities with interstate operations that are not directly linked to state lotteries. According to him, these entities may have relied on the 2011 opinion.
Sandberg’s arguments pointed towards online poker, which was legalized in some parts of the US as a result of the 2011 opinion. He implied that online poker operators could be indicted for violation of the Wire Act, but they can always appeal to have the charges against them dismissed, and a judicial review would then be conducted.