The United States’ Department of Justice is reportedly preparing an opinion that is likely to reverse the opinion that the Wire Act applies to only sports betting and instead have all forms of online gambling included. This apparent reversal of the 2011 Office of Legal Counsel opinion could come down this week but its content is still unknown. Also, according to sources close to the matter, there is still no guarantee that the opinion is going to eventually be issued and furthermore, even if the opinion does come down, it is likely to be buried just as fast before the Christmas holiday.
This move come in the week of a new proposal by a pair of senators to have new sports betting legislation introduced as early as today. The legislation being proposed by the two senators would put the Department of Justice in charge of approving state-level sports betting laws.
Is Sheldon Adelson Behind It?
It has been implied that the rather sudden move could be the behest of Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson whose midterm election support for a bunch of Republican candidates was, in most part, a bust. Adelson would seemingly have a bit of sway and may, in fact, feel owed for all of the things that he has done for the Republican party. He has not been shy to express his staunch dislike for online gambling which makes him the only gaming industry kingpin to take such a stand. Still, it is undeniable that some of his concerns – such as potential underage gambling problems – are valid.
What This Means for the Gambling Landscape in the US
It is still not very clear what kind of change would come about in the United State’s gaming landscape due to the reversal of the opinion. Under the existing OLC opinion, New Jersey and Nevada are already part of an interstate poker network while online gambling is thriving in New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada with Pennsylvania expected to join in very soon.
So far, the biggest concern would be how the reversal of the opinion would impact the interstate poker agreement between Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. This will all depend on how exactly the opinion is crafted.
“A reversal of the 2011 Office of Legal Counsel memo would be a titanic shift in the Department of Justice’s view of the Wire Act,” said John Holden, an academic and professor at Oklahoma State University who is an expert on the Wire Act and sports betting.
Holden is also of the opinion that since the Department of Justice uses opinions as the guide to its view of the scope of various statutes it is not necessarily a binding interpretation law that needs to be passed by Congress.