Justice Department Releases Opinion on Online Gambling
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The Justice Department has released a new opinion that will open the door for states to allow different types of online gambling operated by lotteries and other gambling interests according to legal experts.

The opinion released by the Justice Department was dated September but not released until this past Friday. The opinion reverses a policy that the Department followed the previous decade, one that said most forms of online gambling were illegal per the Federal Wire Act. The act, from 1961, says that bets passing through communications across state borders are illegal.


The opinion by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel says that gambling taking place within a state can no longer be considered illegal. The reason for this is that the Wire Act does not apply to gambling types other than sports betting.

The opinion released by the Justice Department concerns intrastate gambling, which means that bets can be taken and placed within a state’s borders. The opinion from the department does not discuss interstate gambling.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Laura Sweeney, told media personnel that the department would still be allowed to investigate and prosecute gambling organizations under the laws of the Wire Act.

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An official from the Justice Department wrote the following in a letter that had the new opinion:

“The new opinion will not undermine the Department’s efforts to prosecute organized criminal networks. The significant majority of our current and past prosecutions concerning Internet gambling involve cases where the gambling activity is part of a larger criminal scheme.”

After a year of discussions, the Justice Department did not present any concerns with Illinois entering the online gambling world, which state officials understood as a green light to move forward.

Melissa Riahei, a former general counsel for the Illinois state lottery, said the following, according to the Wall Street Theater:

“States have felt handcuffed by this ambiguity that surrounded this issue prior to the decision made public Friday. What this does is it really removes the handcuffs the states have had on them that prevented them from fully utilizing this asset they’ve had for the demographic of casual gamers to play the lottery every day.”

States such as California and Iowa have had bills sitting in limbo regarding online gambling, but those bills could be put into motion with the opinion from the Justice Department.

Officials at casinos say they will continue to work for federal laws that govern online poker, which they claim can provide better protection for the consumer. There are several bills under consideration by Congress but they have yet to move forward on any of them. Those in favor of a federal initiative were hoping that the opinion released by the Justice Department would create urgency to get something done.

“This is exactly the issue we and others have been saying, you’re going to end up with a patchwork quilt of laws that are going to be very hard to decipher,” said Alan Feldman, a spokesman for casino operator MGM Resorts International.


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