NACS-supported legislation restores long-standing interpretation of the Wire Act
Recently, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mike Lee (R-UT),Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) introduced their bipartisan legislation, S. 1668, Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which restores the long-standing interpretation of the Wire Act.
The senators noted that in December 2011, the Department of Justice (DOJ) published an opinion that reversed the long-standing interpretation that the Wire Act banned all forms of Internet gambling. DOJ determined the Wire Act only banned online sports betting. This decision opened the door to online gambling in states which previously had not allowed some forms of gaming.
In the aftermath, three states are currently offering some type of online gaming, and up to ten additional states are currently considering doing the same. Courts have split on the legality of DOJ’s ruling — the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has said the Wire Act only applies to sports betting while district-level courts have said the Wire Act applies to all online gambling. The issue has not yet been before the Supreme Court.
“In 1999, South Carolina outlawed video poker and removed over 33,000 video poker machines from within its borders,” said Sen. Graham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Now, because of this decision by the Obama Administration, virtually any cell phone or computer in South Carolina could become a video poker machine. A major rewrite of a long-standing federal law like this should be made by the people’s elected representatives in Congress and signed into law by the president, not done administratively.”
Sen. Feinstein addressed other significant concerns in her comments on S. 1668: “Internet gambling is very troubling—many online gambling sites don’t screen for underage gamblers and do nothing to prevent money laundering, fraud or other criminal acts. Gambling sites are easily accessible and I believe Congress has a responsibility to prevent abuses from occurring. That’s why I support the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which would prohibit nearly all forms of Internet gambling.”
The Restoration of America’s Wire Act will:
- Return the Wire Act to where it was in 2011 before the Department of Justice reinterpreted the long-standing statute;
- Not affect traditional, retail store lottery sales;
- Not affect gaming establishments, in states where gaming was legal prior to 2011.
“NACS supports this legislation, as it will resume the decades-old interpretation of the Wire Act to mean that lottery games cannot be played online,” emphasized NACS Senior Vice President of Government Relations Lyle Beckwith.