The Department of Justice’s 2011 revision of the scope of the Wire Act of 1961 is under scrutiny by Judicial Watch, who has filed a federal lawsuit seeking documents pertaining to the ruling.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia questions the legitimacy of the ruling by the DOJ that only sporting events and contests are prohibited by the Wire Act and Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, among other laws. The 2011 DOJ opinion that took the gaming industry by surprise opened the door to intrastate online gambling in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. The reinterpretation of the law by Eric Holder’s Justice Department also paved the way for certain states to sell lottery tickets online, which was the impetus of the opinion.
The July 15 complaint is a result of the Justice Department’s failure to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made last year by Judicial Watch regarding the legal basis for the DOJ’s revision. According to the suit, the DOJ had until Feb. 18 to respond, but did not do so. Tom Filton, president of Judicial Watch, said that the DOJ’s willingness “to violate federal records law rather than disclose information, Americans can presume corruption behind its decision to unilaterally legalize widespread Internet gambling.”
Although controversial to a select few, the 2011 DOJ opinion has been accepted by most as correct, with decades of case law to support it. One example of dissent is the 2014 Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) supported by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. The legislation is a nod to a belief by the DOJ of previous administrations that the Wire Act covered all forms of US online betting with the exception of horseracing and in-house mobile gaming.
Judicial Watch added that up until Holder’s opinion, the DOJ actively pursued and levied serious charges against criminals operating in the U.S. who participated in offshore-based online poker companies; cases which were aided by the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) which allowed the pursuit of U.S. gambling firms. The previous DOJ went so far as issuing a reminder that online gambling, including cyber-betting on sporting events, electronic money transfers for gambling, and offshore internet casino betting by individuals residing in the U.S., was illegal in the United States.
Larry Klayman is the founder of Judicial Watch and the Republican cause advocate and now defunct lobbying group, Freedom’s Watch. The federal lawsuit has had mixed results so far, but the conservative watchdog group was successful in obtaining documents related to visits by gaming industry lobbyist Jack Abramoff to the White House.