New Hampshire, DOJ Argue Wire Act In US Appeals Court

New Hampshire, DOJ Argue Wire Act In US Appeals Court
© USA Today

In a case that could end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and its partners argued against the Department of Justice over the range and interpretation of the anti-gambling Wire Act Thursday in a federal appeals court.

Appearing in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit via telephone, attorneys for the New Hampshire Lottery and its partners claimed that a 2018 Office of Legal Counsel interpretation of the Wire Act could lead to the criminalization of online lottery sales and poker across state lines.

The New Hampshire Lottery Commission won a lawsuit in a lower federal court against the U.S. Department of Justice last year. That ruling limited the scope of the 1961 law to sports betting. It rejected the expanded scope of the Wire Act put forth in the Office of Legal Counsel’s letter which said the Act could apply to online gambling in all its forms – and not just sports betting.

The Department of Justice filed the appeal and argued that its enforcement of Wire Act will only apply to sports betting.

In its oral arguments, the DOJ maintained its stance that the plaintiffs would not be subject to any criminal prosecution based on their past actions. But the DOJ attorneys would not guarantee that the plaintiffs – or other lottery providers – would be immune from criminal prosecution under the Wire Act in the future, only re-affirming that they would not be subject to prosecution for anything they are doing now.

’No Threat Of Enforcement’

“There’s no threat of enforcement against these parties. There’s no threat of enforcement against other state lotteries,” the Department’s counsel said.

Attorneys representing the NHLC restated their case by reiterating their “argument that the 2018 OLC opinion criminalizes modern-day lottery operations.”

In its final rebuttal before the three-judge panel, the attorney for the DOJ again stated that its interpretation of Wire Act in terms of prosecution does not extend to anything the plaintiffs are doing right now.

“We will not prosecute you, and we have no position on whether you are covered by the Act," the DOJ said.

The formal case cite is “New Hampshire Lottery Commission, NeoPollard Interactive LLC; Pollard Banknote LTD v. William P. Barr, Attorney General; United States Department of Justice; United States.”

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