DOJ Continues To Dodge Questions About Wire Act Opinion

Written By Vanessa Lutz on May 13, 2019 - Last Updated on October 17, 2022
NJ Attorney General DOJ

On Tuesday, New Jersey’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Justice. Previously, on Feb. 5, NJ Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the DOJ to determine links between Sands’ casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson and the recent changes of DOJ’s Wire Act interpretation.

The DOJ runaround

To clarify, after the DOJ initially ignored Grewal’s FOIA on Feb. 5, Grewal filed another request on Feb. 26 along with a request for expedited processing. On March 8, 2019, the DOJ Criminal Division acknowledged receipt of the FOIA request and granted expedited processing.

Consequently, the DOJ allowed itself 20 days to process the expedited request, according to its guidelines.  To date, the DOJ has not released nor given any reason(s) why information has been withheld. As a result, NJ filed suit against the DOJ to compel answers.

Generally, anyone, US citizen or not, can make an FOIA request. This law enables the public “to be in the know about their government.”

Exposing Adelson’s links

Various media outlets such as Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg reported on extreme lengths Adelson used to protect his brick and mortar casino interests. Grewal seeks any documents and discussions relating to Adelson backed lobbying groups and the DOJ.

The Wall Street Journal reported that in April 2017, a lobbyist with Adelson links provided the DOJ with an unsolicited memo on the Wire Act.

Recall in January when the DOJ released an opinion dated Nov. 2, 2018, which stated the Wire Act applied to all forms of online gambling except racing wagers. The DOJ’s opinion essentially regurgitated the arguments in the unsolicited memo of April 2017.

Grewal, in a statement, is fighting to release this information to the public.

“Online gaming is an important part of New Jersey’s economy, and the residents of New Jersey deserve to know why the Justice Department is threatening to come after an industry we legalized years ago. It’s especially important that we figure out whether this federal crackdown is the result of a lobbying campaign by a single individual seeking to protect his personal business interests.”

Recapping the NH Lottery Wire Act case

Many states relied on a previous DOJ opinion in 2011 and legalized online gambling. This opinion stated that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting.

Since the DOJ released its revised opinion in January, lawsuits have been filed and consolidated into one suit by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, iLottery provider NeoPollard, and iDevelopment and Economic Association.

Grewal and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro sent a letter denouncing the DOJ’s reversal. PA filed a motion to join the NH lawsuit, but Judge Paul J. Barbadoro denied the motion. Instead, PA filed an amicus brief.

The DOJ filed a last-minute motion before oral arguments began on April 11 to get the suit dismissed. In it, they claimed that the Wire Act did not apply to state lotteries.

After oral arguments, Judge Barbadoro seemed to side with NH Lottery. His order is for the DOJ to examine how their new opinion impacts state lottery. The DOJ did not comply and instead, filed a motion to dismiss the suit. He is expected to rule on the motion to dismiss in the upcoming weeks.

The financial impact of the PA Lottery

PA Lottery games generate around $4 billion in sales per year. The proceeds of lottery sales around $1 billion fund Pennsylvania senior programs to help aging residents.

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Vanessa Lutz

Vanessa Lutz graduated from Washington and Lee University School of Law with a J.D. She played poker professionally and then took some time off to have a family. Now she is combining her experience as a contributor to PlayPennsylvania.

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