Feb 6 / 2019
Latest News / Regulation

Attorney Generals criticise DOJ decision to revise opinion on Wire Act

New Jersey and Pennsylvania Attorney Generals launch attack on the DOJ

New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal and his Pennsylvania counterpart, Josh Shapiro have hurled heavy criticism at the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) after their decision to revise their interpretation of the Wire Act.

sigma igaming Attorney Generals criticise DoJ decision to revise opinion on Wire Act
New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal.

The Attorney General’s have asked the DOJ for assurances that the Department will not launch any enforcement action against licensed iGaming operators in either state.

Grewal has also levied harsh accusations against the DOJ, suggesting that their decision to revise their opinion on the Wire Act was pandering to anti-gambling groups. As a result he filed a Freedom of Information Act request to ascertain whether the Department’s decision  could have been influenced by lobbying groups such as the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

The revised decision was published on January 15 and issued by the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel – stating that the 1961 Wire Act applied to all forms of gambling, not just sports betting, as outlined in a 2011 interpretation of the Act. This opinion, the pair said, effectively meant that state-sanctioned gambling, launched in the wake of the 2011 ruling, had abruptly been made illegal.

sigma igaming Josh Shapiro
Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro.

“This about-face is wrong and raises significant concerns in our states,” the pair wrote. “We ask that DOJ withdraw its opinion altogether or assure us that DOJ will not bring any enforcement actions against companies and individuals engaged in online gaming in our states—where it is appropriate under state law.”

“This decision puts jobs and livelihoods at risk for the thousands of people who work in the online gaming industry and jeopardises critical state funding for the public good that is generated by lottery sales and other internet activity that is legal within our states,” they added.

“Nothing changed in the years since the Justice Department allowed online gaming to move forward, and there was no good reason for the Justice Department to rethink its prior decision,” Grewal explained. “Instead, media reports make clear that pressure to reconsider the opinion came from out-of-state casinos and their lobbyists.

“That is not a good enough reason to reverse course and undermine the online gaming industry. We want to know who Justice Department officials spoke with, and why they decided to change their minds.”

Grewal and Shapiro’s intervention was hailed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who described iGaming as a key component of the state’s plan to revitalise Atlantic City and strengthen its economy.

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