New Bill Seeks To Amend Wire Act, Ban Greyhound Racing

  • HR 3335, also known as The Greyhound Protection Act Of 2021, would amend the Wire Act and ban greyhound racing federally.
  • The Wire Act was passed in 1961 to curb organized crime but has since been applied to online gambling, despite being passed before the existence of a widespread internet.

WASHINGTON – A new bill, introduced by Rep. Tony Cardenas, seeks to amend the 1961 Wire Act to prohibit greyhound racing.

HR 3335 also known as “The Greyhound Protection Act Of 2021,” would “amend the Wire Act to clarify that gambling on commercial greyhound racing and field coursing using wire communication technology is prohibited.”

Greyhound racing is a dying pastime, with less than 10 remaining dog racing tracks in the United States and that number dwindling seemingly by the day. The largest blow to the greyhound racing industry came in 2018, when Florida gambling changed with the passing of Amendment 13, banning the pastime in the state.

Florida held a majority of the greyhound racing tracks in the United States before the amendment passed. The shift in public perception in the last few decades is thought to be a result of increased concern over the well-being of the dogs.

What Is The Wire Act?

The Wire Act is a relatively jumbled and confusing piece of legislation that has cast a shadow over the online sports betting industry for decades. Most states that have legalized and regulated sports betting have done so with the Wire Act in mind; most states did not launch such an industry out of fear of violating the Wire Act and a similar bill called PASPA.

The Wire Act was a part of an effort to curb organized crime activity that was prevalent during the early 1960’s. The bill was suggested by then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy; subsequently, Congress drafted and passed the bill, which was then signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in September of 1961.

In 2002, the Department of Justice issued a memo declaring that all forms of online gambling violated the Wire Act. The Office of Legal Counsel then issued an opinion in 2011 that the Wire Act only pertains to sports gambling, not other types of online gambling.

In 2018, the Office of Legal Counsel changed course, declaring that other forms of online gambling should again be considered to be in violation of the Wire Act. Since then, many interpretations have been held.

What Would HR3335 Mean For Sports Betting?

The Greyhound Protection Act Of 2021 is considered unlikely to gain much traction in Congress; however, if it does pass, it opens the door for further amendments to the Wire Act.

To date, the Wire Act has not been amended; however, if HR3335 passes, further amendments are likely.

Political experts believe that further amendments would update outdated language in the bill to either exclude or explicitly include online sports betting providers. Considering the bill was drafted and passed in 1961, there is no mention of the internet in the contents of the bill, which has led to difficult judicial interpretations over recent years.