Wire Act is Limited to Sports Betting, US Appeals Court Rules, Paving Way for Interstate Online Poker Expansion

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has upheld a 2019 court decision that the Wire Act is limited to sports betting only.

The decision is a firm and potentially final rebuke of the US Department of Justice’s failed attempts to broaden the scope of the 1961 law. It once again clears the path for online poker operators to share player pools across state lines.

It comes two years after the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), under the Trump administration, decided to take a fresh look at the language of the bill, drafted decades before the internet, to conclude that “its prohibitions sweep beyond sports gambling.”

This interpretation has been sounded rejected by the Appeals Court, just as it was in 2019.

“And we win!” announced igaming lawyer Jeff Ifrah, first sharing the news on social media on Wednesday. “The 1st Circuit upholds the District Court’s Opinion and rejects the OLC’s opinion. The 1st Circuit holds that the Wire Act only (and obviously) applies to sports events and contests! Big Win!”

The saga began almost a decade ago, when the Department of Justice, then under the Obama administration, gave some clarity around the dated and ambiguously-worded 1961 Wire Act, making it clear that it saw the law as limited to sports betting only.