Myths and Facts about the Wire Act

The 1961 Federal Wire was not intended to ban all online gambling; at the time of the Wire Act’s passage, members of Congress clearly understood that it applied only to interstate sports betting. The Wire Act was not intended to prevent states from legalizing online gambling; all those involved in drafting the Wire Act specifically noted the purpose of the bill was to assist the states in enforcing their laws pertaining to gambling. The 2011 Department of Justice (DOJ) memo did not reverse the longstanding interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act; the interpretation that the Wire Act applies to all online gambling lasted only from 2002 until 2011. The DOJ changed federal law with the consent of Congress; Congress has considered no less than five bills to amend the Wire Act to broaden its scope beyond sports betting. Clearly, members of Congress believe the bill, as written, is limited to sports gambling. The DOJ has the authority to interpret the law; under administrative law, federal agencies can interpret ambiguous laws.

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