The United States Department of Justice has recently filed a motion to dismiss that was filed by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission (NHLC) over the reinterpretation of the 1961 Wire Act opinion in January 2019. Rumors of the move by the Wire Act to reverse the Wire Act opinion officially came in November last year but the department only published in at the beginning of 2019. According to the new opinion, the Wire Act now applies to all forms of online gambling instead of just sports betting as stipulated by the previous opinion from 2011.
There have been numerous speculations and reports claiming that the move was highly motivated by anti-online gambling lobbyists headed by billionaire Republican donor and chief executive of Las Vegas Sands Corp., Sheldon Adelson. The billionaire has not been shy about his strong stance against the rapidly growing online gambling industry and it would not be much of a surprise if this is confirmed to be true somewhere along the line.
Obviously, the new law presents a major hurdle for online gambling industries across several states where it has been legalized and is regulated. This is what stirred up the pot and resulted in a flurry of lawsuits being filed against the Department of Justice. Even Pennsylvania joined in on the fight but its request to be one of the key plaintiff’s lobbying against the new opinion was declined and now the state has chosen to back New Hampshire whose lawsuit seems to be gaining momentum quite rapidly.
The Department of Justice Hits Back
Last Friday, the US Department of Justice responded by issuing a 37-page document that mainly sought to have the lawsuit dismissed. Even though there is a very slim chance that the request will be honored by the proponents of the lawsuit the outcome may not matter since the department is seemingly ready to put up a fight. To put this into perspective, the DOJ document includes the following arguments:
- The Court Should Dismiss These Cases for Lack of Standing.
- Plaintiffs’ Claims Fail on The Merits Because Only One of The Wire Act’s Four Prohibitions Is Limited to Sports Gambling.
- Should the Court Rule Against Defendants, It Should Enter Exclusively Declaratory Relief.
- The Court Should Reject Amici’s Additional Arguments.
In addition to all that, just a short while after New Hampshire received numerous amicus briefs, Sheldon Adelson and his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) lobbyist group also filed an amicus brief to support the Department of Justice. Clearly, a fight is looming here.