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Poker news | Jul 26, 2021

2019 Ruling on Wire Act Stands – Win for Interstate Online Poker

By RTR Dennis

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In 2019, the US Department of Justice lost a ruling to New Hampshire’s lottery over their re-interpretation of the federal Wire Act. This ruling ensures that states can continue offering interstate online poker and other forms of internet gambling.

The DoJ did have an opportunity to appeal the ruling. However, the time period for an appeal has now passed. New Hampshire’s court victory officially stands.

The justice department caused a stir in 2018 after claiming that the Wire Act essentially banned all forms of interstate online gambling. It called on states to shelve further efforts to expand mobile gambling.

New Hampshire, which runs a successful online lottery, quickly filed a lawsuit. Granite State politicians didn’t feel comfortable with the DoJ unilaterally making decisions on internet gambling. It claimed victory when a judge ruled that the Wire Act is unconstitutional.

Interstate Online Poker Is In a Good Position

New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have already been sharing online poker players for a while. Other states are interested in joining this interstate compact at some point in the future.

However, interstate mobile poker was in jeopardy following the Department of Justice’s 2018 Wire Act interpretation. Assuming the DoJ’s opinion that the Wire Act applies to all online gambling stood, it could’ve crippled online poker.

With no chance of an appeal now, interstate poker can move forward with full steam. Any states that had hesitancy don’t have to worry about the DoJ attempting a crackdown.

Sheldon Adelson Was Behind the 2018 Interpretation

Sheldon Adelson, who passed away in January 2021, funded the push for re-establishing the Wire Act. He had been fighting online gambling expansion for over half a decade before the time of his death.

The Las Vegas Sands Chairman’s money bought him plenty of political influence. He was instrumental in getting the DoJ to re-interpret their stance on the Wire Act.

In 2011, the Obama-led DoJ ruled that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting. The 2018 version, though, went the opposite way in stating that all types of interstate online gambling should be illegal (as per the Wire Act).

Adelson feared that internet gambling would erode the land-based casino empire he created. As a result, he poured millions of dollars into stopping mobile gambling expansion. With his passing, the last big fight against interstate online poker may have gone with him.

Where Is US Interstate Online Poker Now?

Many had high hopes for the US internet poker market when Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada began sharing liquidity in 2014. After all, more liquidity means bigger potential poker tournaments and cash games.

Fast-forward several years later, though, and this compact hasn’t added any new members. A large part of the problem is simply that few states have legal online poker.

Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have since regulated the game. However, they’re still just getting their markets off the ground right now.

Pennsylvania and/or Michigan linking up with DE/NJ/NV would be big. Both are large states that could add lots of liquidity.

Of course, many more states are needed before the US online poker market can be anything like it was before Black Friday (April 15, 2011).