DOJ’s Appeal Of NH Lottery Case Means New Jersey’s Wire Act ‘What Ifs’ Return

Written By Grant Lucas on August 19, 2019 - Last Updated on August 16, 2019

The federal government is not done fighting for the reinterpretation of the Wire Act.

The Department of Justice on Friday officially filed an appeal in its legal battle with the New Hampshire Lottery, beating the Aug. 19 deadline by three days.

This appeal comes more than two months after a district court in New Hampshire issued a 60-page opinion in opposition of the DOJ.

Judge Paul Barbadoro, who oversaw the proceedings, opined that the 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act proved more accurate than the DOJ’s revised opinion that came to light late last year.

As a result, Barbadoro said, the Wire Act applies solely to sports betting rather than to the wider range of online gambling the DOJ targeted.

DOJ appeal comes off as ‘unwarranted’

In reality, the appeal was expected. Barbadoro said as much during the April hearing:

“I have a strong feeling that however I resolve the case, or however the First Circuit resolves the case, it is likely going to be resolved by the US Supreme Court either way.”

Indeed, it appears the road leads straight to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a statement, Jeff Ifrah, founder of the online gambling lobbying group iDEA Growth, called the DOJ’s appeal “hardly unexpected” but “certainly unwarranted.”

“DOJ generally files appeals of adverse district court decisions as a matter of course. We hope that, rather than engaging in a protracted, expensive and ultimately unsuccessful legal fight, the Department will take this opportunity to negotiate a settlement which will focus the Wire Act and DOJ’s enforcement resources on the right targets – the unlicensed illegal offshore Internet gambling operators who do not create jobs or tax revenue in the U.S. and do not appropriately protect consumers.”

What happens now with the Wire Act?

While the DOJ filed its appeal, it still must formally petition the court of appeals. The court will then assess the situation and determine if moving forward with the case makes sense.

The First Circuit is not in session for oral arguments but will return in October.

So at least for another month and a half, the world of online gambling will not change. Beyond that, however, is anyone’s guess.

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How does this affect NJ online gambling?

The good news: It doesn’t, per se.

Over the past year, online gambling in the state has taken off, courtesy of a burgeoning NJ sports betting industry that complements the two dozen NJ online casinos and poker sites.

For now, operators in the Garden State can maintain business as usual.

The bad news: We now return to a “what-if” stage that was created following the emergence of the DOJ’s reinterpretation of the Wire Act.

Sports betting and online gambling in New Jersey have flourished recently. Operators have reported more than $31 million in NJ online casino revenue in each month of 2019. Since launching in November 2013, the industry had never before had even one month reaching that total until after the introduction of online sports betting.

To boot, sports betting revenue in New Jersey has generated more than $3.4 billion in wagers since going live in June 2018, resulting in $221.7 million in revenue during that time.

While operators in the state can continue business as usual, certainly plenty is at stake should the First Circuit Court of Appeals reverse the ruling.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant now focuses his attention on the growing NJ online gambling and sports betting scene.

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