A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent opinion reversing the 2011 Wire Act, the one that gave individual states the right to legalize and regulate online lotteries and poker. Until this sudden reversal, states like Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware were able to significantly grow their economies and share in the revenues, while other states, like Pennsylvania, felt safe to pursue efforts to pass internet gambling legislation.
After the revised opinion, it appeared that the future of states’ rights to legalize online lotteries, poker and casino games was in serious jeopardy. But remember, the DOJ’s opinion is just that – an opinion and not a law.
In New Jersey, State Senate President Steve Sweeney issued a strong statement condemning the reversal, noting that it could impact every aspect of New Jersey’s gaming industry, which has grown since the launch of online gambling in 2013 and sports betting in 2018. “We don’t want to lose the hard-fought gains that are helping to revive Atlantic City and the state’s gaming industry.”
Sweeney immediately turned to retired state senator Raymond Lesniak, who had successfully spearheaded New Jersey’s online poker legislation in the past, including the multi state online poker alliance that made liquidity sharing possible with Nevada and Delaware.
Lesniak was asked to prepare a response to challenge the revised DOJ opinion. As we noted in our 01/ 23 blog, Lesniak was already prepared to do battle, having issued several statements, including that the new opinion was outrageous: “It looks like I will have to go to court again to straighten out the Justice Department’s overreaching on states’ rights.”
A fix from Congress is not expected. As Lesniak said, “Getting Congress to act would be the best way to deal with this, but getting Congress to act on anything these days is very difficult.”
So Lesniak formally responded in a three-page letter to Sweeney. In it he called for the state legislature to file a declaratory judgment action in US District Court against the recent DOJ opinion on the Wire Act in order to “protect and preserve the significant benefits accruing to the State of New Jersey and our residents from internet gaming.”
We will be following this crucial case closely and fill you in on major developments. If you enjoy getting into the weeds on this and other legal issues, try:
https://www. legalsportsreport.com. It’s an excellent source of up-to-date coverage.