IGT Wins in DOJ Lawsuit; Wire Act does not apply to online poker

online poker

A decade-long struggle over various interpretations of Interstate Cable Act of 1961 could finally come to an end after a District Court of Rhode Island judge ruled that the US Department of Justice must formally declare that the law only applies to sports betting.

The decision, a significant victory for online poker in the United States, was made in a lawsuit filed in November 2021 by International Gaming Technology (IGT) against the DOJ in an attempt to get the Justice Department to clarify its position on the Wire Act and seeking “a declaratory judgment that the Justice Department cannot sue them for non-sports betting under the Wire Act” .

In a summary judgment published on September 15, District Judge William E. Smith ruled in favor of IGT and denied the DOJ’s motion to dismiss the case, allowing the gaming company to operate freely in dozens of states without fear of federal lawsuits.

Coating with IGT

IGT filed its lawsuit after a lawsuit in 2019 between the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and the DOJ. In this case, a Federal District Court The judge ruled against a Trump-era DOJ interpretation of the Wire Act stating that the law applies to all forms of gambling — a reversal of the DOJ’s 2011 opinion under President Barack Obama — and the United States District Court later confirmed this decision.

The Department of Justice accepted the court’s decision and let the June 2021 deadline pass to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. However, the DOJ declined to formally denounce the 2018 advisory, leaving much room for concern among stakeholders and actors that the DOJ might reverse its position.

In its lawsuit, IGT sought “declaratory relief that … the Cable Act does not apply to IGT’s non-sports gaming operations,” noting that New Hampshire’s ruling was narrow in scope and arguing that IGT risked being sued by the DOJ.

District Judge William E. Smith
District Judge William E. Smith’s Ruling in IGT v. DOJ Lawsuit

The DOJ maintained that there was no risk that IGT would be sued. But Justice Smith disagreed in his summary judgment, noting that “the DOJ’s change in position has created substantial uncertainty for large parts of IGT’s business.”

“Like the NHLC plaintiffs, IGT’ shouldn’t have to operate under the dangling sword of the indictment while the DOJ claims to be deliberating endlessly on the purely legal question it had apparently already answered and about from which he offers no reason to expect a favorable response to the plaintiffs.'” Smith wrote.

Smith also argued that “there is no doubt that a judgment” will serve a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the legal relationships at issue “and will provide significant relief” from uncertainty, insecurity and controversy behind the procedure “.”

Smith’s decision was unambiguous and left little room for interpretation: “The Court declares that, as to the parties before it, the Wire Act applies only to ‘betting or wagering on any sporting event or competition’ .”

What this means for online poker

IGT’s victory in the DOJ lawsuit could have wider implications for the U.S. online poker market, which has remained fractured since 2011. black friday. When the DOJ repeals the 2018 ruling, there will be no doubt that the Wire Act applies strictly to sports betting and does not apply to poker, lottery, or other forms of online gambling.

Such clarity on the Wire Act could pave the way for more states to legalize online poker, joining the likes of Nevada, New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

online poker
online poker

It could also encourage states that already have legal online poker to combine player pools across state lines through interstate poker pacts. One of these pacts is the Multi-State Internet Gambling Agreement (MSIGA)which Michigan joined earlier this year.

Whatever happens, the IGT lawsuit’s decision clearly legitimizes the DOJ’s 2011 decision that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting, while also removing the reversal of that decision in 2018.

To learn more about shared liquidity in the United States, see this PokerNews February article.