DOJ Memo Says No Wire Act Enforcement of Non Sports Bets Until 2020

A week ago this past Tuesday a New Hampshire federal judge put limitations on the US Department of Justice’s 2018 reinterpretation of the Wire Act. The ruling looked like an undercut to the chin of sports betting.

But, at the same time it also brought an increased intensity to the debate over the actual practicality of a federal law more than a half-century old; a law targeting organized crime and illegal sports betting. We have to stress the tie between organized crime and illegal sports betting.

90 Day Directive

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had already postponed the November directive for 90-days back in March. Online casino and gaming operations were given a three-month grace period to adjust to the change in interpretation.

Seems the June 4 call in New Hampshire made the waters muddier, rather than clearer. This single ruling will certainly be used as a bat of precedent by the casino industry going forward. The judge’s decision appears to have singled out sports betting for penalty enforcement.

However, it has also recreated a heated discussion over the need for a federal law written in the early 1960s to address a crime-related issue that most believe is no longer a problem. The ruling also flies in the face of a change in the cultural stigma associated with gambling, period.

PASPA Overruling

We’re roughly a year to the date from the US Supreme Court flipping another federal law that most felt was far past its usefulness. The May 2018 decision to overturn the federal ban on sports betting has opened a wave of states jumping at the chance to generate billions in much-needed revenue.

It was as if the Department of Justice felt they were eventually going to lose all control over the internet gaming and gambling operations. So, they came up with some sort of memo, weak on substance, an attempt to redefine the 1960 Federal Wire Act.

Sessions Leaves His Mark

Now, to provide a little history behind the whole November debacle, Jeff Sessions was still the US Attorney General. Sessions has made no bones about the fact he thinks gambling in all forms is wrong and should be against federal law.

Thankfully for most of the US gaming enthusiasts, the majority of people do not share Sessions’ archaic sense of morality. Almost lost in the wording was the effect the November memo had all across the country. It essentially made everyone a criminal who purchased an interstate lottery ticket.

It was a simple as where certain lottery commissions had their servers housed. New Hampshire’s online operations were actually run on machines in Vermont and Ohio. Bingo, you’ve got a federal crime, according to the DOJ.

Any Winner?

Well, you can probably figure that as soon as some bright and studious legal mind caught wind of the actual ramifications of the DOJ’s misguided motives, a court fight was right around the corner. On June 4, the first round was won by online gaming operations for one.

While sports’ betting wouldn’t necessarily be considered a winner, they do appear to have generated a delayed dead ball. This latest decision also points to nothing much happening until 2020 at the earliest. You can download the full DOJ Memo here.

Just like a delayed dead ball in many sports, the play will be allowed to proceed. What everyone is eager to find out is who will begin to score points in the interim. Both sides have teams full of lawyers, experts in their field.

Expect it to be toe-to-toe until a final ruling gets ironed out. The Department of Justice is staffed with some of the best lawyers in the world, so don’t expect the fight to be easy. But, public sentiment and legal precedent are now on the side of the gaming industry and sportsbooks.

Sam Shefrin is the founder of Lineups.com, Inc. Before Lineups, he started Daily Fantasy Cafe, Inc. in 2014. Armed with a passion for sports and every Atlanta team, his journey continues with the goal of making Lineups a premier sports analytics destination. He has been quoted on Forbes.com for industry insight and his websites featured on NBATV, Yahoo! Sports, Fantasy Pros, Bleacher Report and SB Nation.

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