Members of Congress proposed an amendment to block funding for the Department of Justice to enforce its new interpretation of the Wire Act.

Online Poker Report first reported that Congress considered amending an appropriations bill to block funding needed to enforce the DOJ’s new Wire Act opinion. It appears that the amendment will not make it into the final language of the bill though.

Congress aims to protect states with legal online gambling

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) is the primary sponsor of the amendment. In addition, Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) of the Rules Committee are co-sponsors.

Short and sweet, the proposal could not have been more direct. The full text follows:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to enforce the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel memorandum entitled ‘Reconsidering Whether the Wire Act Applies to Non-Sports Gambling’ (issued on Nov. 2, 2018).

Specifically, the amendment is part of an appropriations bill on HR 3055.  And most importantly, HR 3055 apportions the DOJ’s salary.

For this reason, the DOJ would be like a dog without its bite should the amendment pass.  Therefore, states, like Pennsylvania, with regulated online gambling can breathe a sigh of relief as the DOJ would be unable to pursue Wire Act prosecution.

A bit of confusion

As noted regarding HR 3055, two similar amendments were filed. The sponsors earlier withdrew Item #122. Item #152 is added with the addition of Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH) as a sponsor.

The Rules Committee met Tuesday at 5 p.m. to consider the bill. Then, they heard HR 3055 on Wednesday. Afterward, the bill passed to the Committee of the Whole.

However, the Committee did not call the amendment for a vote. As of now, there is a little confusion if the amendment will be heard.

DOJ’s looming appeal

After the DOJ issued its new Wire Act interpretation in 2018, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission quickly responded by filing suit.

Essentially, the DOJ took the new position that all forms of online gambling violate the Wire Act. Early this month, Judge Paul Barbadoro sided with the NH Lottery Commission.

More recently, the DOJ issued a memorandum delaying enforcement of the Wire Act until early 2020 or final resolution of the NH Lottery case. In doing so, we speculate that the DOJ is preparing to appeal Barbardoro’s ruling to the First Circuit Court.

Also pending is New Jersey’s Freedom of Information Act case. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal seeks to the release information pertaining to Sheldon Adelson on the DOJ’s new Wire Act opinion.

Las Vegas Sands Corporation CEO, Sheldon Adelson, is a big opponent against online gambling. Previously, multiple sources uncovered Adelson’s links as the driving force behind the new opinion.

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