Wire Act Applies Only To Sports Betting

Written By Janice Doughtrey

The United States Department of Justice now says that the 1961 Wire Act applies to sports betting, and only sports betting. This change will also have an effect on the online gambling industry. The Department of Justice has long stated that the Wire Act prohibits all forms of interstate gambling that takes place over the internet. The Assistant Attorney General Virginia A. Seitz issued their opinion back in September 2011, which was that “interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a ‘sporting event or contest’ fall outside the reach of the Wire Act.”


The opinion of the Assistant Attorney General was made public this past September in response to a 2009 request that had been made to clarify the plans of New York State’s lottery division and the Illinois governor’s office. The plans that are being referred to are the ones that they made for selling lottery tickets to residents in their respective states online. The plans involved the transmission of data outside the state lines to out of state transaction processors, and the Department of Justice claimed that this was a violation of the Wire Act, and conflicted with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).


The Assistant Attorney General realized the contradiction of the Wire Act, and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, and came to the following conclusion: “Because the proposed New York and Illinois lottery proposals do not involve wagering on sporting events or contests, the Wire Act does not, in our view, prohibit them. Given this conclusion, we have not found it necessary to address the Wire Act’s interaction with UIGEA, or to analyze UIGEA in any other respect.”

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