- In 2011, the Obama DoJ reinterpreted the Wire Act to allow for online gambling.
- In 2019, the Trump DoJ reinterpreted it again to disallow this.
- Now, with Joe Biden in office, many states are calling for a return to the Obama interpretation.
TRENTON, N.J. - The Federal Wire Act has long been a bone of contention for those who offer online gambling.
In 2011, Barack Obama’s Department of Justice wrote an interpretation of the Wire Act that allowed for the existence of online gambling.
States like New Jersey were quick to take advantage, while many other states waited for 2018, when a landmark Supreme Court case overturned PASPA, a law that banned sports betting.
However, in 2019, Donald Trump’s Department of Justice reversed that decision after alleged lobbying from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam Adelson, both major Republican Party donors.
Now, with Joe Biden running the country, and Merrick Garland in charge of the Department of Justice, several states are asking the Biden administration to reverse Trump’s reversal.
States Ask For New Ruling
27 states, including New Jersey, which has been on the forefront of this fight, have requested that the Biden Administration issue a new interpretation of the Act that would allow for online gambling.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal was one of those raising questions about the Trump DoJ position at the time, and now that Biden is in office, he sees an opportunity to settle the matter.
“It’s time for DOJ to lift the fog of ambiguity surrounding this important national issue,” said Grewal. “New Jersey’s legal gambling industry – and the many state services and programs supported by gaming revenue and tax dollars - would have been devastated in 2020 without online gaming. Internet gaming has for years been, and remains, an essential industry here, one the Department of Justice viewed since 2011 as perfectly legal until its baseless backtracking.”
“We maintained from the start that the Trump-era Wire Act ‘reinterpretation’ was politically motivated and wrong on the law, and we’re proud to now join with our fellow states in calling for its official elimination.”
New Jersey’s online gambling offerings are a significant part of the state’s revenue, as yearly online gambling revenue in the state is close to $1 billion.
Grewal’s point is well taken - after all, almost half of New Jersey’s total gambling revenue in 2020 came from online gambling.
Granted, much of this was due to the COVID-19 pandemic making in-person gambling much more difficult, but that goes to the point Grewal is making - that New Jersey needs online gambling, and that it is one of the most important industries in the state.
It is unclear what position the Biden DoJ will take on the issue, although Biden’s close ties to Obama suggest that a third reinterpretation of the act is possible.