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Federal judge says Wire Act only applies to sports betting

US betting law

A US District Judge has declared that the Federal Wire Act of 1961 applies only to gambling on sporting events.

That contradicts the opinion published by the Department of Justice (DOJ) last year, which said the law covered any gaming or wagering activity conducted remotely.

The revised interpretation would have meant a blanket ban on all forms of online and mobile gambling, including sportsbooks, casinos, poker and lotteries.

The New Hampshire government challenged the DOJ’s ruling in a bid to save its online lotto industry, and Judge Paul Barbadoro has sided with his home state.

“I hereby declare the Wire Act only applies to transmissions related to bets or wagers on a sporting event or contest,” he said in his ruling.

“The 2018 Office of Legal Counsel opinion is set aside.”

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New Hampshire is one of several US states that relies on lotteries to fund education, infrastructure and other public services.

“Today’s ruling is a historic victory for the State of New Hampshire and we are proud to have led this effort,” said Governor Chris Sununu.

“New Hampshire stood up, took action and won – all to protect public education in our state.”

Judge Barbadoro’s ruling is also a relief to the US states that have legalised sports betting in the past year.

Whereas the DOJ’s 2018 opinion made specific mention of online sportsbooks and mobile betting sites, the original Wire Act was aimed at interstate telephone wagering services run by organised crime syndicates.

Thus, until a new interpretation of the laws is validated, there is no legislation that forbids online sports gambling when operators and gamblers are based in the same state.

The DOJ may yet appeal the ruling, which would see the matter decided in the US Supreme Court.

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