In January of this year, the Department of Justice surprised everyone with a rather old-fashioned interpretation of the Wire Act. Its interpretation included interstate online gambling, poker, and lotteries in a nationwide ban, whereas previously only sports betting was included.
Now, the DOJ has taken a step back, perhaps due to vocal opposition from many states. In a new memo released on June 12, the DOJ wrote that it will defer compliance with the January interpretation until the end of the year, or 60 days after a verdict in New Hampshire is reached. The original date for compliance was June 14, and that was already an extension from the first deadline, which was April 15.
The New Hampshire case the DOJ referred to is the latest ruling from New Hampshire federal judge Paul Barbadoro, who earlier this month overturned the DOJ’s January interpretation of the Wire Act and stated that it only applies to sports betting.
While Barbadoro’s ruling was certainly a victory for the online gambling camp, the war is far from won. Analysts anticipate that the New Hampshire ruling will be appealed and that, eventually, the case will end up in the Supreme Court.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who issued the memo, also made sure to state that the extension is "an internal exercise of prosecutorial discretion and does not create a safe harbor for violations of the Wire Act." In other words, the DOJ is not willing to concede that its interpretation is incorrect.
The good news for New Hampshire is that, in addition to playing a crucial role in the battle over legalized gambling, it is also one step away from legalizing sports betting. On Thursday, the state legislature passed a bill that will allow retail and online sports betting within the state. All that awaits is the governor’s signature, and he has previously expressed his support of the bill.