New Jersey Adds Its Name In Support Of Federal Wire Act Challenge

Written By Grant Lucas on March 8, 2019

New Jersey has entered the ring in a legal battle against the Department of Justice.

PlayNJ confirmed Friday that the Garden State aligned itself with New Hampshire to challenge the DOJ’s recent opinion of the Wire Act. That opinion cracks down on state-run online lotteriesonline casinos and poker sites, and online sports betting.

On Friday, New Jersey filed an amicus brief in support of New Hampshire’s challenge.

You can read the full brief here.

New Hampshire filed the lawsuit on Feb. 15. The suit seeks an injunction of enforcement of the new opinion to protect the NH Lottery.

Late on Friday, the Michigan Lottery plus a lot of other state lotteries followed suit and filed an amicus.

DOJ opinion sparks a legal fight

In January, the DOJ Office of Enforcement Counsel provided its latest interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act, which reversed the office’s 2011 opinion.

Eight years ago, that opinion applied only to interstate sports betting. The latest revision, however, now affects all forms of online gambling.

Potentially, the latest iteration could criminalize activity such as interstate lottery products like Powerball, online lottery, online casino, and online poker. It could also affect legal online sports betting.

The issue at hand is that some information transmits across state lines even in an intrastate gaming transaction.

As such, NJ online casinos, online poker, and the newer market of NJ online sports betting could all be at risk should the DOJ enforce the latest Wire Act opinion.

The DOJ initially stated that its opinion would be enforced starting April 15. Later, the department extended the deadline for states and companies to develop contingency plans to June 14.

NH Lottery paved the way for NJ

In mid-February, the New Hampshire Lottery issued an aggressive response to the DOJ’s Wire Act opinion. The NH Lottery filed suit in the First Circuit Court against the DOJ in an attempt to prevent the department from enforcing its new opinion.

Later that day, the technology and service provider of the lottery, NeoPollard Interactive, also filed suit.

Per the complaint, the NH Lottery “seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against the defendants.” The lottery and NeoPollard echoed each other, explaining that the new opinion puts nearly all current legal forms of the lottery at risk.

The location of NH Lottery’s lawsuit filing provides some optimism for the involved states.

After all, the First Circuit Court already invoked the 2011 opinion in a previous case, United States v. Lyons.

New Jersey has already made its stance known

New Jersey has already had its opinion on the recent Wire Act opinion publicized.

In a letter dated Feb. 5, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal along with his PA counterpart Josh Shapiro issued a letter to the DOJ.

In it, the duo expressed “strong objections” to the department’s revision while requesting the DOJ withdraw its opinion.

If anything, the two attorneys general wrote, the DOJ should refrain from enforcing its opinion against online gaming companies or players in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

This letter details how the 2011 Wire Act opinion became the catalyst for state-regulated online gambling, providing insight into NJ’s reasoning for joining New Hampshire’s legal battle.

The letter noted that states developed their respective online gaming industries under the guidance of the 2011 opinion. The time-consuming and expensive process of crafting appropriate infrastructure only happened under the advice of past DOJ officials.

Now, as the letter said, this reinterpretation of the Wire Act threatens the jobs of thousands of employees. It threatens the beneficiaries of gaming-related taxed revenue.

And now, New Jersey is done writing letters and issuing requests. The Garden State is ready to head to court.

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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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