Biden Could Void DOJ’s Wire Act Opinion

President-elect Joe Biden could be set to have a major impact on the online poker world

President-elect Joe Biden takes office this week and a Michigan-based law firm believes it is good news for online poker.

Dickinson Wright is a large law firm based in Michigan, a state set to launch online gaming. Lawyers from Dickinson Wright are of the opinion a Biden administration will rescind the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) 2018 opinion on the Wire Act.

Biden hinted at such a move during his presidential campaign.

“I would reverse the White House opinion that was then reversed and overruled by the court. The court is correct. That should be the prevailing position.”

The Interstate Wire Act, sometimes called the Federal Wire Act, came into force in 19961. It is a wall of long-winded text but there is one key element to take from it. The Wire Act prohibits interstate wagering. That’s the top and bottom of it.

The DOJ released a formal legal opinion in September 2011 which the act only covered sports betting. This meant online casino and online poker players can legally play against opponents from other states. The DOJ reversed its 2011 opinion in 2018. It declared the Wire Act’s prohibitions are not limited to gambling on sporting events or contests.

It is widely believed the late Sheldon Adelson, an anti-online gambling campaigner, had a major influence on the DOJ’s opinion. Adelson was friends with President Trump and donated $350 million to his campaigns.

Why Are The Comments From Biden Good For Online Poker

The DOJ’s 2018 opinion throws a spanner in the works for states wanting interstate online gambling. Biden wants to void this opinion, sending the laws back to the original 2011 opinion. This means the Wire Act only applies to sports betting.

DOJ’s 2018 opinion has the potential to dissolve the current interstate compacts in place. Nevada and New Jersey, for example, could have to stop sharing traffic on their online poker platforms. It would hinder any future interstate connections too.

Biden stepping in and dropping the appeal is great news for online poker fans. This is because it makes the wire act only applicable to sports betting. Nevada and New Jersey can continue as they are. New relationships are possible and could flourish.

What Does This Mean For Currently Inaccessible Online Poker Sites?

Several massive online poker sites became unavailable to Americans in October 2006. “Black Friday” is what the industry calls this dark day. It is the date the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) became effective.

George W. Bush signed the UIGEA into law. It was a late addition to the SAFE Port Act and made it illegal for financial institutions to processes transactions to gambling sites.

Sites including 888poker and partypoker immediately withdrew from the United States. PokerStars continued its US operations for another five years before withdrawing.

The Wire Act has obvious ties to the UIGEA. There is no suggestion Biden will rescind the UIGEA but it is a possibility.

The world has changed a lot since those dark days of October 2006. Several states now offer licensed and regulated online casino and poker products, for example. They bring in substantial revenues for their respective states.

Biden inherits an economy unable to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment hovers around 7% and COVID infections continue to soar. Biden is spending $1.9 trillion as part of a stimulus package to get the US back on its feet. That astronomical sum needs paying back at some point. What better way than by the taxation of online poker sites?

We’re a long way off seeing the glory days of online poker played with a global player pool, but we are a lot closer to that than we were under the Trump administration.

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.


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