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Online Gambling Potentially Impacted by New Justice Department Opinion

By Peter Clarke, JD on January 22, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

The Wire Act was enacted in 1961. That statute makes it a criminal offense to transmit information that seeks to promote interstate or foreign wagering.

Fast-forward to September, 2011: the Obama-era Justice Department rendered an opinion that only sports betting came with the ambit of the Wire Act. Prior to that, the Justice Department applied the statute to non-sports gambling.

Fast-even-more-forward: the Trump-era Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel just reversed the Obama-era Department opinion that confined application of the Wire Act solely to sports gambling, according to the Washington Post.

Thus, according to the Post, while a variety of state and federal laws, notably including the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, make unlawful the majority of online gambling, prosecutors for the Justice Department now will be able to include the Wire Act within their arsenal to go after online gambling operations.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued a memo postponing implementation of the opinion for ninety days, giving those operations that might not be in compliance with the Wire Act time to adjust to come into compliance.

So, what is the bottom line?

That is not entirely clear. Some people who have studied the issue do not believe that the affect of the Justice Department's reversal in this context will be far-reaching and severe. On the other hand, others believe that the Department did this for a reason -- namely, to have a greater ability to shut down online gambling.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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