Acting US AG Says He Was Not Involved in New Wire Act Opinion

Summary: The acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has stated that he is not involved in the new changes to the Wire Act by the Department of Justice and has never spoken to Sheldon Adelson.

For the past few months, the online gambling industry of the United States has been in uproar based on a new interpretation of the Wire Act of 1961. In 2011, the Obama Administration decided to change the decades old law so that online gambling could being in the US. The change saw the Wire Act state that only interstate sports betting was not allowed online. Now, the Department of Justice and changed that opinion and includes all interstate online gambling in the mix.

Matthew Whitaker

Last week, acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was in front of Congress to testify as he is considered for the position. During his testimony, he was asked about the Wire Act change and said that he had no involvement. He was also asked to if he ever met with Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands and strong opponent of online gambling as a whole. He said that he had not.

While the ongoing investigation into the Trump Administration run by special counsel Robert Mueller was the main focus of the hearing, Whitaker was asked about the Wire Act as it is a big deal for online lottery as well as poker operators in the United States.

During the hearing, Representative Jamie Raskin was asking questions of Whitaker involving the Wire Act. He asked if the AG had any relationships with anti-online gambling groups or casinos interests. Whitaker stated that he was recused from involvement.

During the questions, Whitaker stated that any inferences on how the process was corrupted or corrupt are wrong. He feels the change is correct and backed up by a white paper produced in Illinois.

It is believed that Whitaker will not take on the AG position. He will most likely be superseded by William Barr, the nominee of Trump for the position.

Moving Forward

So now, with Whitaker possibly out of the picture, where does Barr stand on the issue of online gambling? It was believed that he would be questioned on the topic in January during a confirmation hearing but that was not the case. Barr has yet to state publicly as to how he feels about the Wire Act opinion.

For online gambling operators, the change is not a good one. Several states offer online lottery gaming that is affected by the change as well as three states that currently provide interstate online poker gaming. While the online poker industry has yet to develop into a big-money industry, online lottery sales are in the millions per state that offers it.

New Hampshire lottery officials are deeply troubled by the legal changes to the Wire Act and are ready to take action if need be. The lottery has already spoken to their state Governor and Attorney General and are ready to file a lawsuit in order to maintain their revenues from online lottery products.

New Hampshire is earning around $300,000 per month and bringing in a minimum of $4 million a year from online lottery sales. That number is expected to increase so the state would lose out on a ton of money, if the interstate online gambling ban continues to exist.

It will be interesting to see how the following weeks play out as the Department of Justice tries to push their agenda while operators try to hold on to their interstate online gambling services.  There are sure to be many lawsuits filed as the DOJ tries to stop interstate iGaming from taking place.


Logan is based in Los Angeles and is an avid poker player having played in tournaments across the globe. He covers both poker & regulatory affairs.