Department of Justice Extends Wire Act Opinion Implementation Until June 14

Posted on: March 4, 2019, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: March 4, 2019, 07:05h.

The new Wire Act opinion written by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in November but only made public in January won’t be implemented until June 14, as ongoing legal challenges linger.

Wire Act opinion online gambling casinos
Before his impending departure, DOJ official Rod Rosenstein continues to impact how the Wire Act is enforced in the United States. (Image: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg)

The DOJ sent a memo to state attorneys general late last week informing them that the federal agency’s latest position on the law won’t go into effect until June 14. The implementation was scheduled to occur on April 15.

The Justice Department now says the Wire Act bans the transmission of money relating to any form of interstate gambling. Previously, a 2011 opinion from the DOJ said the law applied only to sports betting.

The 2011 position from the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel essentially began the process of states determining their own rules on internet casinos. Today, Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all have authorized some form of online gambling.

Extension Granted

The 2019 Wire Act opinion threatens the future legality of internet gambling in the four states where it’s permitted, as well as online lottery games and multistate offerings such as Mega Millions and Powerball. As such, numerous state attorneys general have filed lawsuits or requests for additional clarification against the Department of Justice.

After initially suggesting that the 2019 opinion would become the agency’s official stance 90 days from issuance, DOJ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says the view won’t take effect until June.

We have decided to extend that window an additional 60 days (through June 14, 2019),” Rosenstein explained. “Providing this extension of time is an internal exercise of prosecutorial discretion and does not create a safe harbor for violations of the Wire Act.”

Rosenstein will resign from his post in the coming weeks. It’s alleged that the DOJ deputy attorney general was willing to secretly record his conversations with President Donald Trump after the May 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey. Rosenstein denies the allegations.

Trump tweeted recently that it appears Rosenstein and others were “planning a very illegal act, and got caught.”

Legal Action

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) says the state will sue the DOJ unless the agency withdrawals its 2019 Wire Act stance, or provides assurances that the opinion will not jeopardize legal online gambling in states where it has been permitted.

New Hampshire isn’t taking the “wait and see approach,” and instead is moving forward with legal action.

Last month, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission brought a lawsuit against the Justice Department in the US First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The lawsuit states that the 2019 opinion “is not faithful to the text, structure, purpose, or legislative history” of the Wire Act.

The DOJ’s decision to review its agency’s own opinion on the statute is thought to be the Trump administration appeasing of billionaire Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson. The casino tycoon has pledged to spend “whatever it takes” to stop the proliferation of internet gambling.

It was revealed last week that the 85-year-old Adelson is undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.