US Justice Department Lets Wire Act Appeal Deadline Pass, Allowing Interstate Online Poker to Be Officially Legal

U.S. Justice Department Lets Wire Act Appeal Deadline Pass, Allowing Interstate Online Poker to Be Officially Legal

In 1961, the US legalized a law prohibiting residents from using internet devices for gambling activities. The law intended to curb the spread of organized crime activities. It was even used to crackdown online poker in 2011.
During the same year, the Department of Justice opinionated that the 1961 law applied to sports betting only. This meant online poker was legal in the USA.

Various states jumped to interstate poker. Delaware and Nevada decided to share their player pools in 2014, with New Jersey joining them four years later.

But, the Department of Justice opinionated that the 1961 wire act applied to sports betting only. This meant other gambling activities, including online poker, could go on.

However, the same Department of Justice (DOJ) reconsidered its 2011 decision with the help of the late Sheldon Adelson in January 2019. The new memo stated that all forms of interstate gambling were illegal. Yet, the New Hampshire lottery was operating its online platform with servers from a different state, which proved difficult.

Thus, the New Hampshire Lottery had to take it with the court to solve their issue. Shortly after, New Hampshire Lottery got a favorable ruling with the U.S. District Judge ignoring the DOJ’S 2019 memo about the illegality of interstate poker gaming.

The Department of Justice appealed. But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first hearing was pushed to January this year. The First Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court ruling, saying that the Wire Act applied to sports betting only.

From this, the DOJ had until June 21, 2021, to appeal the decision. Yet, they did not appeal, which means online poker gaming is officially legal.

The Wire Act Ruling May Inspire iGaming Growth

Immediately after the 2021 DOJ’s opinion advocating for online poker, various states legalized online gaming. Some states’ appetite for gaming was so high that they went for interstate compacts. This increased traffic to different gaming platforms and increased the liquidity of the player pool.

But, with the New Hampshire Lottery battle with the DOJ, several states went a notch down from legalizing online gambling. Pennsylvania and Michigan launched online poker but could not partner with other states to share a player pool. Some brands were scared to venture into interstate gambling as the Act Wire was not clear.

With the recent development, states have a shot at going all-in with interstate online poker. According to the iDevelopment and Economic Association, the current development should eliminate any ambiguity about the 2018 DOJ’S opinion.

The nonprofit organization seeks to encourage growth in iGaming. The group’s general counsel, Jeff Ifrah, said that the DOJ’s decision not to appeal The First Circuit Court of Appeals agreement to Wire Act is an indication that it’s a thing of the past.

The iDevelopment and Economic Association said that states thinking of expanding their online gaming presence should do so. With the recent development, the online poker community stands to benefit the most.

Yet, only New Jersey, Deleware, and Nevada share a multi-state equity pack for online poker. Bigger states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan are yet to adapt to the multi-state equity pack. By having a shared player pool, online poker would be so much fun and interesting.


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