Over the past few weeks, there has been a lengthy discourse amongst the public at large about the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Federal Wire Act. While the issue remains unresolved, it is getting heated up again.
To sum up the high-level controversy embroiling in the U.S. sports gambling industry, the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) reversed main provisions of the Wire Act, including the rules related to inter-state fund transfers. About nine years ago, the DOJ had made it clear that this legislation applied only to sports gambling. However, in a strange turn of events in January, earlier this year, the DOJ went topsy-turvy on its original stand and declared that the Wire Act now applied to all forms of online gambling.
The DOJ’s stance was resented and witnessed protests all across the US. For most, it was highly controversial and unjust to take a U-turn on something of such high importance and implications and more so when gambling has been officially declared to be legal in the US.
Following the DOJ’s stand on the Wire Act, the New Hampshire Lottery is all geared up to sue the U.S.A and also the U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the DOJ. After this announcement coming from New Hampshire Lottery, it has also received support from two US states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Moreover, the Michigan Lottery also joined the cause and has already filed an amicus brief. If approved, this would allow them to be a party in the lawsuit.
The amicus brief filed by Michigan Lottery is on behalf of other 11 US states and the District of Columbia (D.C.). The amicus comprises of enterprises in Tennessee, North Carolina, Delaware, Kentucky, Virginia, Idaho, Vermont, Alaska, Mississippi, D.C and Rhode Island. With so many to challenge the DOJ’s stand, it is not going to be easy for them, and the forces which were acting behind getting such controversial decisions from the DOJ will be exposed.
In their argument, apart from the lawsuit, New Jersey states that courts: “can and should grant relief that reaches beyond the parties and the District of New Hampshire, and that protects the interests of third-parties like New Jersey nationwide. Under the Declaratory Judgment Act, the Court should declare that the Wire Act does not cover non-sports-related gambling in any jurisdiction, and under the Administrative Procedure Act, the Court should vacate the DOJ’s 2018 reinterpretation of the Wire Act as null and void.”
The entire episode has raised serious concerns amongst the citizenry. What could have led the DOJ to turn around on their own opinion? If the DOJ, the top authority on law enforcement can be manipulated and influenced, how independent are the other agencies? Also, last but not least, if it can happen with the Wire Act, how can one say that it is an isolated incident.