Online Poker Legislative Path Clearer After Court Rules in Favor of New Hampshire

Online poker legislation just got a little easier thanks to a recent ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. New Hampshire won again in its case involving the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Wire Act. The court ruled that the 2018 change to the Wire Act does not apply and online lottery games and poker across state lines are not in violation of the nation’s laws.

A similar ruling took place in June 2019 within the United States District Court, also in favor of New Hampshire. The state started its lawsuit against the DOJ in 2018 shortly after the department decided to change a 2011 ruling of the Wire Act, putting certain online gambling activities in jeopardy.

A Little History

The Obama Administration’s DOJ ruled in 2011 that the Wire Act be updated based on today’s technology. It was created in the 1960s and dealt with bets placed over telephones. With the 2011 ruling, the nation was opened up to legalizing gambling. The law now only applied to interstate sports betting.

In 2013, Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware began offering online gambling options like casino and poker games. Over the years, other states started offering online lottery gaming. Fast forward to 2018 and the Trump administration’s DOJ decided to change the Wire Act, saying it applied to not only sports betting but all forms of online gambling. This ruling put the lottery industry as well as online poker at risk.

New Hampshire lottery officials were ticked and wasted no time in taking legal action. The fight has been long-running, but so far, the state has been able to outplay the federal government.

What Happens Now?

With the recent ruling, the DOJ has the ability to take the case to the Supreme Court. It is unclear as to if the DOJ will make this move. With the Biden administration in charge now, it is not likely the case will be sent to the Supreme Court. Biden was the vice president during the Obama administration, which of course, was the administration in charge when the Wire Act was first changed back in 2011.

The new ruling says that the reinterpretation applying the Wire Act to all wagers does not hold up to scrutiny. For now, it appears as though online poker gaming, as well as lottery gaming, will be safe from any legal challenge.

It is expected that the outcome of the new ruling will see more states legalize online poker. Pennsylvania is one state that already offers poker services, for just over a year now, with no interstate gaming. Michigan is set to launch iPoker soon. Both of these states could be the latest additions to a multi-state compact in which online poker player pools are shared. This option will be considered at length with this recent court ruling.

Most states cannot generate enough revenue with online poker only within individual borders. With interstate operations no longer being an issue, it will provide more stability for states that have considered iGaming in the past but did not go through with legislation.


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