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US Authorities Shift Position on Wire Act

laptop with dice and chips

The future of online gambling in the US has been thrown into doubt after the Department of Justice reversed a 2011 opinion on the Wire Act. The opinion had found that it applies only to sports betting, but according to the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) the Wire Act refers to all forms of gambling.

Speaking about the reversal, Engel said that it was not a change that had been taken lightly, but that the previous opinion represents an incorrect interpretation of the law, based on a misunderstanding of the grammar and wording of the Wire Act:

We reasoned that the text itself can be read either way because section 1084(a) lacks a comma after the first reference to ‘bets or wagers’; we thought that such a comma would have made it plausible that the first prohibition in the first clause was not limited to sports-based gambling.”

The reversal of this opinion could have serious repercussions for online gambling companies, who had previously been operating under the assumption that online gambling not related to sports was legal. As a result of the new legal opinion, the share prices of a number of UK companies involved in the US market fell significantly earlier in the week.

But for the time being, the full implications of the new opinion remain uncertain and it may not be until it is tested in court that gambling companies and online gamblers will be given clarity.

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