US DOJ Reverses Position; Wire Act Only Applies to Sports Betting

The DOJ gave poker players some good news on Friday.

A few days early, the U.S. Department of Justice has given poker players a Christmas presents of sorts. The DOJ, which has long held the position that the Wire Act of 1961 applies to all forms of internet gambling, changed their position and now believe the 50-year-old law only applies to sports betting and not other forms of online gambling, including poker and lotteries.

The DOJ had been asked for their opinion on the Wire Act as it pertained to lotteries in New York and Illinois. In the documents released on Friday the DOJ took the position that “interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a “sporting event or contest” fall outside the reach of the Wire Act”.

While the DOJ’s new position is a potential boon to state-run lotteries that wish to sell tickets online, it removes a potential barrier for online poker in the United States. The Poker Players Alliance has already released a statement applauding the DOJ.

“This is a much needed clarification of an antiquated and often confusing law. For years, legal scholars and even the courts have debated whether the Wire Act applies to non-sporting activity. Today’s announcement validates the fact that Internet poker does not violate this law,” said John Pappas, PPA’s executive director. “The PPA commends Assistant Attorney General Seitz for recognizing this.  However, this ruling makes it even more important that Congress act now to clarify federal law, and to create a licensing and regulation regime for Internet poker, coupled with clear laws and strong enforcement against other forms of gambling deemed to be illegal.”

In the memo the DOJ also attempts to distance this ruling from anything to do with the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act.

“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,” the memo reads.

The full memo from the DOJ can be read here.

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Lance Bradley

Editor in Chief at BLUFF.com
Editor in Chief: Lance Bradley began working with BLUFF in March 2008 and was named Editor in Chief in August 2009. Prior to joining BLUFF Bradley launched an independent poker blog, ThePokerBiz.com in 2006. Before entering the world of poker media he was the Poker Room Manager for Bodog from January 2004 until June 2006. He graduated from the Applied Journalism program Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, Canada.
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