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On Friday, February 8, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testified that there was no influence from anti-U.S. online gaming interests involved when the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) reversed its 2011 opinion on the Wire Act in November, although it was made public on January 14, 2019.
Numerous newspapers and industry trade publications have speculated that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson influenced this turnaround by the OLC. Adelson funds a group called “Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.”
The House Judiciary Committee scheduled an oversight hearing. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) grilled the acting AG who said that he was not involved in the 2018 DOJ opinion—“The first OLC opinion that preceded the one we just issued in November was done — and the state of Illinois provided a white paper regarding the position on the Wire Act. So I think it is very consistent, and your inferences on how that process was corrupted or corrupt is absolutely wrong. And the premise of your question I reject,” said Whitaker at House Judiciary Committee meeting.
Separately, the New Hampshire Union Leader published the article “Trump Legal Opinion Threatens NH Lottery Profits” on February 8. Since the state of New Hampshire based its decision to launch online wagering based on the 2011 Wire Act opinion, it may now have to file a lawsuit if that’s necessary to protect this revenue.
New Hampshire Lottery Executive Director Charles McIntyre was quoted that the OLC ruling would make it illegal to purchase New Hampshire Lottery tickets online. “Certainly at the very narrowest interpretation we are looking at $4 million to $6 million this year and $6 million to $8 million next year, as this represents what we are selling now through the internet online channel,” McIntyre was quoted in the New Hampshire Union Leader.
It looks like New Hampshire could be the state to test the 2018 OLC opinion. It is fitting. New Hampshire had to fight for the right to sell lottery sweepstakes in the 1960s. It introduced the 20th century lottery to the United States when sales launched on March 12, 1964. Now New Hampshire is the most recent U.S. lottery jurisdiction to launch internet lottery sales in 2018.
The nickname for New Hampshire is The Granite State. Let’s hope that New Hampshire stands rock strong in this fight!