by Renee Israel
The US Justice Department made public an opinion on Friday, the day before
Christmas, regarding its reinterpretation of a policy held for decades relating
to online gambling.
The opinion, which was written in September but published on Friday, relates
to the government's interpretation of the Wire Act of 1961, which bars gambling
through telecommunications (interpreted as online in later years) which crossed
state or international borders.
Until now, the government's opinion was that the Wire Act referred to all
types of gambling. However, the published opinion clarifies that it refers to
gambling on "a sporting event or contest" only.
These dramatic US internet gambling changes could have a significant
impact on the US gambling landscape and the global online gambling industry at
large, which grew 12% last year to $30 billion.
According to I. Nelson Rose, considered one of the biggest gaming law experts
in the country: "The US Department of Justice has given the online gaming
community a big, big present."
Writing on his blog, Rose said that the latest decision could eliminate
"almost every federal anti-gambling law that could apply to gaming that is legal
under state laws."
Changes in US Gambling Laws Face Criticism
The changes published by the Justice Department have been welcomed by many,
but also - as can be expected - criticised by many.
Social groups are angry that the department found it necessary to publish the
opinion on one of the busiest days of the year, the day before Christmas.
"What is outrageous is how they released the opinion on the eve of Christmas
Eve," said Les Bernal, the executive director of the US based Stop Predatory
Gambling. "They know how severe the implications are, but they tried to bury
However, John Pappas of the grassroots poker advocacy group, the PPA,
representing over one million poker playing members, said that this was "a much
needed clarification of an antiquated and often confusing law."
"For years, legal scholars and even the courts have debated whether the Wire
Act applies to non sporting activity," he said. "Today's announcement validates
the fact that internet poker does not violate this law."
There are now calls on the Federal government to use this ruling as an
incentive to move fast towards the enactment of a policy which governs licensing
and regulation on a federal level, before individual states produce schemes
which may not be in the best interest of consumers.