The DOJ new Wire Act opinion was a move to stop online sports betting in the US. However, a federal judge ruled the measure only bans interstate sports betting. It doesn’t stop states from making the activity legal in their territories.
US District Judge Paul Barbadoro from New Hampshire made the decision Monday. As a result, operators of interstate lotteries and other online gambling sites gave a huge sigh of relief. They thought the DOJ new Wire Act opinion will affect all types of online betting between states.
The New Hampshire Lottery Commission filed a lawsuit to have the new Wire Act interpretation overturned because its operations might be considered as illegal by the DOJ. The Lottery Commission uses a third party with servers in Ohio and Vermont.
The state will lose over $90 million a year if it suspends lottery sales. Other states supported New Hampshire’s lawsuit, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey.
The DOJ made the new interpretation on November 2. However, they only made it public in January. The DOJ told pay per head provider that the opinion released seven years ago was a misinterpretation. In fact, conflicting readings of the act were the result of the ambiguous wording used in a key provision.
Barbadoro told a pay per head provider that he looked for the context of the law instead of the grammar of the Wire Act to decide on its meaning. In addition, the judge said that the Paraphernalia Act, released together with the Wire Act, showed the true intention of Congress.
Also, the judge said the two gambling statutes passed the same day. In fact, they gave a strong contextual signal of the scope of the Wire Act. With the Paraphernalia Act, Congress wanted to target non-sports betting with its clear language.
With the federal judge decision, it is safe to create a sportsbook in states where sports betting is legal. It gives a precedent that will be followed by other federal courts in the US.