The push for online poker legalization in the US has received a major boost early in the New Year.
As we all know, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a long-time opponent of online gambling was laid to rest a week ago. President-elect Joe Biden has just been inaugurated as the country’s new leader, and his administration will play a vital role in clearing the way for online poker legislation in the country.
Appellate Court Rules in Favor of New Hampshire
Now, the latest ruling in the Wire Act case has gone in favor of New Hampshire. The state has been victorious so far in its ongoing legal battle against the US Department of Justice in relation to its reinterpretation of the Wire Act.
It all started when the DOJ, in January 2019, made public its revised opinion on the Wire Act, stating that the law covered all forms of online gambling, beyond sports betting.
This resulted in a lawsuit filed by the state of New Hampshire in the following month.
In its legal challenge, New Hampshire argued that the DOJ’s Wire Act reinterpretation veers away from the purpose and legislative history of the law. The 2011 DOJ Wire Act opinion stated that the legislation only applied to sports betting.
New Hampshire is particularly concerned about the negative impact the 2018 DOJ opinion would have on online lotteries, which have become a major source of revenue for US states. The New Hampshire Lottery in particular helps fund the state’s public education system.
But aside from online lotteries, online poker operations will also be greatly affected if the latest Wire Act opinion stands, as under the current interpretation, all shared liquidity agreements between states will come to an end. Therefore, any form of victory for the state of New Hampshire in this ongoing legal battle is also a huge win for the country’s online poker industry.
New Hampshire’s first court victory took place in 2019 when US District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro ruled against the DOJ. The DOJ launched an appeal, and now the First Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a similar decision, ruling that the Wire Act only covers sports wagering. Hence, other forms of interstate gaming, including online lotteries and online poker can operate as is.
The DOJ’s last resort would be to bring the matter to the Supreme Court, but that may never happen now, especially as US President Joe Biden has now taken office. President Biden already made it clear in his earlier pronouncements that he does not support the 2018 DOJ opinion. Also, he was part of the Obama administration which was responsible for the 2011 interpretation.
Therefore, it’s highly likely that the 2011 DOJ opinion will be reinstated under Biden’s leadership.
Bright Future Ahead for US Online Poker
Online poker has just been given a whole new shot at being allowed all over the country, though not necessarily in the immediate future. With the stumbling blocks slowly falling one by one, the industry can look forward to a brighter future.
Once the 2011 Wire Act opinion is reinstated, more states will consider launching their own regulated online poker markets, following in the footsteps of Michigan and Pennsylvania (the latest states to legalize online poker).
Moreover, the online poker community can expect to compete in a bigger player pool as regulated markets will likely take part in multi-state online poker agreements. One such deal is currently ongoing between New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.
Michigan has already taken the first step towards taking part in interstate agreements by passing a multi-state online poker bill.
The states will now get the chance to boost their online poker revenue by taking part in shared liquidity agreements; players will have a shot at bigger prizes, and more operators will come in, which is a positive thing for the industry in general. Who knows, US online poker could return to its glory days, but this time the industry can make sure it’s operating within the law.