According to a memo from the US Deputy Attorney General, the Department of Justice (DoJ) will not attempt to enforce the revised interpretation of the Wire Act until 2020.
The memo was published on 12 June by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen who is new to the role since the initial Wire Act opinion.
This news comes after New Hampshire won a lawsuit against the DoJ clarifying that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting, not all forms of online gambling.
On 4 June, US District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro rejected the 2018 opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel which stated that the Wire Act’s coverage extends to interstate online gambling.
The memo states: “On June 3, 2019, a federal district court in New Hampshire issued an opinion holding, inter alia, that Section 1084(a) applies exclusively to sports gambling. The Department is evaluating its options in response to this opinion. Accordingly, the forbearance period announced in the Deputy Attorney General’s February 28 memorandum is hereby extended from June 14, 2019 to December 31, 2019 or 60 days after entry of final judgment in the New Hampshire litigation, whichever is later.”
The DoJ has yet to confirm if it will challenge the New Hampshire District Court ruling, according to the memo the DoJ is currently “evaluating its options.”
Background on the Wire Act
The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 was passed by Congress as a means to combat organized crime.
The federal law essentially allowed law enforcement to arrest members of organized crime groups that facilitated illegal sports betting.
Initially, the Wire Act only applied to sports betting but in 2001 under the Bush Administration, the DoJ revised its opinion on the Wire Act and expanded the scope of the law to cover all forms of online gambling.
The 2001 opinion was met with criticism from gambling stakeholders and legal experts across the country, mainly due to the fact that the law explicitly mentions sports betting.
In 2011, under the Obama Administration, the DoJ limited the scope of the federal law to cover illegal interstate wagers on sporting events.
However, in 2018 the DoJ under the Trump Administration reversed its opinion on the Wire Act and argued that the law applies to all forms of online gambling.
This new interpretation of the Wire Act could cause several issues for all forms of gambling from interstate lottery games to online gambling.
This led to New Hampshire filing the lawsuit against the DoJ.
What’s next for the DoJ and the Wire Act?
The DoJ memo has been distributed to all US Attorney Generals, their deputies and to the Director of the FBI.
Although the department will postpone its enforcement of the Wire Act, the memo states that this does not protect parties who violate the federal law.
The memo reads: “Providing this extension of the forbearance period is an internal exercise of prosecutorial discretion and does not create a safe harbor for violations of the Wire Act.”
If the DoJ does challenge the New Hampshire ruling, the case will move to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.