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The US Department of Justice and its new stance on the Wire Act continue to create headaches for some state-regulated gambling industries.
In a Wednesday interview with WV Metro News, the top regulator in West Virginia blamed the DOJ for the delay in fully implementing mobile WV sports betting. According to WV Lottery Director John Myers, any further approvals are on hold indefinitely.
While unrelated, the ongoing service outage that has plagued BetLucky WV and Delaware North for two full weeks exacerbates the delay.
The DOJ is preparing to enforce its new interpretation of the 1961 federal law, though the specifics of enforcement remain unclear. It’s that lingering uncertainty that has cast confusion over some forms of legal sports betting.
“It’s kind of given everybody caution on how to move forward until we can get that resolved. We are doing everything we can to try and work through that. We’ve been working through our national organization to try and get some idea on how the DOJ decision is going to come down.”
Like regulators in all states with online gambling, those in WV are still working to understand the implications.
Pennsylvania responded with an abundance of caution, instructing prospective operators to fully comply with the new opinion. The WV Lottery appears to be following the same timid track, delaying approval for additional mobile operators.
The new opinion is already having some tangible effects on state-regulated gambling.
Online poker might be impacted most directly, since it relies on the sort of interstate network that seems to be a new target for the DOJ. In announcing its schedule of online bracelet events, the World Series of Poker couldn’t say if players in New Jersey will be eligible to participate this year.
Online sports betting could also be in jeopardy, as transmitting associated data across state lines may violate federal law. It seems likely WV regulators expect their licensed operators to transact entirely within the Mountain State.
Meanwhile, a legal challenge to the new opinion is mounting in New Hampshire.
The NH Lottery Commission was the first to bring a federal lawsuit, and more than a dozen states and agencies have since filed briefs in support. Despite its cautious reaction to the opinion, Pennsylvania even tried to directly intervene.
Oral arguments begin soon, but a full resolution could be much farther down the road. Myers sees no need to rush new apps to the WV market while the legal situation shakes out.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a sense of urgency,” he said, “but it’s certainly high on our priority list to get done.”