The United States Department of Justice gave a new definition to the wire act. It made clear that online gambling was not part of it as the only kind of betting under the wire act was sports betting, specifically bets on sports events and races.
Professor I. Nelson Rose said that the conclusion of the DOJ “eliminates almost every federal anti-gambling law that could apply to gaming that is legal under state laws.”
There are but a few other federal anti gambling statutes such as the prohibitions of interstate lotteries but Rose said that these can be gotten around very easily. And under the federal law, poker wasn’t even part of the lottery family tree.
All that are left are federal laws that go after an organized crime that require another law to be broken first. It was like breaking a vase will be unpunishable unless another vase was inside it and that little one shattered, like the film inception, only it was based on a vase. Well you get an idea, the federal laws left were for the crimes that come in partners. Break one and another one and you get punished, break only one and you get, what? Violating two of the following laws: the Wire Act, the federal anti-lottery statutes, and the state anti-gambling law will be punishable. But that would still be unlikely because there are ways to go around it. Take this idea for instance:
If the bettors and operator are all in the same state, and the gambling does not involve a sports event or race, the Wire Act cannot be used against the operator, even if phone wires happen to cross into another state. And if the state legislature has made the online game legal, it does not violate any other federal anti-gambling law.
There’s a provision in the wire act that allows prosecutors to shut down phone lines during interstate or foreign gambling events but the DOJ didn’t express their opinion. The DOJ was very solid in their stand that everything under the wire act solely applies to sports betting.
Rose said, “This means there may be nothing preventing states from making compacts with other states, and even foreign nations, once they have legalized an online game, like poker. If Nevada and the District of Columbia want to take Internet poker players from each other, what federal law would they be violating?”
The immediate beneficiaries of this news will be the D.C. lottery and licensed Nevada operators since their jurisdiction was much ahead compared to other states. Other states will follow for sure and will try to expand their online gambling since it was legalized.
Rose foresees that the next step would be coming from the operators to push interstate Internet poker among the legal states even though as of now the Nevada Gaming Corporation has created regulations that says gaming must be limited to players who are physically within the state. Well, we’ll see.