New Jersey Senate President Objects to DOJ Wire Act Reversal

By Joe Nocco

February 20th, 2019 - 4:34pm

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney officially asked the Department of Justice to retract its latest opinion regarding the Wire Act.

By penning a formal letter earlier this month, Sweeney also made a point to suggest that if the Department of Justice does not ultimately comply with his letter’s wishes, the New Jersey Senate President will be forced take the matter to court.

Sweeney’s Strong Words

With the letter being addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Sweeney directly pointed out why the Department of Justice’s recent change of heart in terms of the thought process surrounding the Wire Act is wrong.

“If the OLC 2019 Wire Act Opinion is not rescinded, I have authorized former Senator Raymond Lesniak to file suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of the New Jersey Senate for a Declaratory Judgment that the 2019 OLC Opinion is arbitrary and capricious and that the statutory prohibitions of the Wire Act are uniformly limited to gambling on sporting events or contests.”

Leading to such a war of words, the federal Wire Act of 1961 has more often than not dealt solely with illegal forms of sports betting – not the newly-found legal forms of sports wagering. However, the Department of Justice reversed its course back in January, stating that the Wire Act now applies to all forms of gambling.

Of course, the state of New Jersey previously legalized sports betting midway through 2018, which has already led to an instant spike in both handle and revenue.

“The 2019 opinion, which took 26 pages of tortured analysis of sentence structure and comma placements to determine that the clear language of the Wire Act applied to all forms of gambling, was contrary to the much better reasoned opinion of the 5th Circuit and the ‘thorough review’ of the Department of Justice in 2011.”

Attacking the Reversal

As a result of such back tracking, many have begun to ponder what repercussions the Wire Act being enforced on more than illegal wagering could have on other gambling-related industries including lotteries, horse racing, online casino gaming and, of course, online sports betting.

Sweeny openly attacked the switch, saying “By reversing its own opinion, the OLC admits the language is not plain and would require an analysis of the legislative history of the Wire Act, which would demonstrate that the Wire Act targeted only sporting events or contests to assist prosecution of organized crime run betting operations on sporting events and horse racing.”

Prior to New Jersey’s decision to legalize sports betting last year, the state was already ahead of the game as the home of the famed Atlantic City. The revival of the Atlantic City casino scene recently was lent a hand by the new wrinkle has been added thanks to the addition of legalized sports wagering.

Of course, such a wrinkle has brought even more gambling-related revenue to the state, which many do not want to see interrupted going forward. Because New Jersey wants to remain ahead of the game with legalized sports betting, it appears as though those in favor of this system will fight to keep pushing forward.

Even if it means returning to court.

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Written By
Joe Nocco

Joe Nocco writes about gambling news for TopUsBets. His background is primarily sports-related and he’s one of the more balanced reporters in the betting business in terms of experience.

He’s also a regular contributor to Clutch Points and has covered... Read More

Joe Nocco writes about gambling news for TopUsBets. His background is primarily sports-related and he’s one of the more balanced reporters in the betting business in terms of experience....

Read More