Late last night, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a new legal opinion that goes against an earlier one from 2011. The opinion says a law called the Wire Act–which prohibits any type of betting that uses wire communication to transmit information–applies to all forms of betting and not just sports betting. The 2011 opinion had originally said the law’s purview was only for sports betting.
It may seem like a piece of legislative minutiae, but this revised opinion will likely have serious ramifications for burgeoning online betting programs. While there are already a bunch of laws that make most forms of online gambling illegal, programs that are currently kosher have not had to conform to the Wire Act. Now that they do, this could seriously hinder their legality.
This move by the DOJ has long been lobbied for by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who owns the casino company Las Vegas Sands. Adelson has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobbying firms that push for legal restrictions like this one, according to the Washington Post.
The Post, however, adds that it’s still unclear how this new decision will be implemented. Anonymous DOJ sources told the newspaper that “it doesn’t mean that large swaths of gambling that were once legal are now illegal and vice versa.” Still, online betting companies have reason to be worried–this decision is certainly an attempt to shut them down. Not only that, but the opinion illustrates the pull that casino magnates like Adelson have with the current administration.
We won’t know the impact right away: The DOJ says it will not enforce this new interpretation for 90 days, in order to allow betting programs to comply with the new regulation.