Judge Tells PA Thanks But No Thanks In DOJ Wire Act Case

Posted on March 11, 2019 - Last Updated on March 15, 2019

A judge has denied a request by Pennsylvania to become a co-plaintiff in a case challenging the latest Wire Act opinion.

That does not mean the Keystone State is completely out of the fight though.

PA plaintiff request against DOJ denied

Judge Paul J. Barbadoro issued the order in response to an 11th-hour filing by Pennsylvania late last week. Barbadoro turned down the state’s request to intervene alongside original plaintiff New Hampshire.

From the order issued Saturday, a day after Pennsylvania’s request:

“I deny the motion for substantially the same reasons that caused me to deny the prior motion to intervene. Further, I categorically reject the proposed intervenor’s contention that it is entitled to intervene as of right in this case simply because an adverse ruling could affect the lawfulness of its state statutes under certain circumstances.”

Barbadoro observed that the case before him filed Feb. 15 does not involve Pennsylvania law. Thus, the Commonwealth’s complaint is outside the jurisdiction of the 1st Circuit Court. Additionally, he noted, “an adverse ruling by this court would not bind the proposed intervenor, and nothing prevents the proposed intervenor from bringing its own action in a court with proper venue to protect its interests.”

Pennsylvania, however, can still enter the fight against the Wire Act opinion. As Barbadoro concluded:

“That being said, I will grant the proposed intervenor amicus status with the right to file a supporting brief and present oral argument. I will reassess the issue if changed circumstances warrant a different conclusion.”

Pennsylvania must file an amicus brief by Wednesday if it desires to take advantage of the judge’s suggestion.

Other states have filed amicus briefs in Wire Act suit

As Online Poker Report reported Friday, New Jersey and Michigan each filed an amicus brief in New Hampshire’s case.

All states argue that the Department of Justice, which issued a broad reinterpretation of the Wire Act, breaks not only the legislative intent of the act but also sways from the opinion of at least two federal circuit courts that believed the Wire Act pertains solely to sports betting.

PA arguments for joining the case

Pennsylvania, along with New Jersey and Michigan, just filed its request under the wire last week. The state offers PA online lottery on top of the traditional lottery games, and by the spring and summer, online PA sports betting and PA online casinos will hit the market.

With online betting expansion on the horizon, Pennsylvania argued that the enforcement of the latest Wire Act opinion could prove undesirable for many.

From the state’s filing:

“Given the use of wire transmissions for Pennsylvania Lottery games as described above, the broadest interpretation of the 2018 Opinion could result in the suspension of all state lottery sales, resulting in an immediate annual loss of over $1 billion in Lottery proceeds that benefit older Pennsylvanians.”

What’s next for Pennsylvania?

While Pennsylvania will not become a co-plaintiff with New Hampshire, it will still have some information to bring to the table.

Like all the other states that have entered amicus briefs, Pennsylvania will have the opportunity to submit evidence and support for New Hampshire’s case.

While not directly relevant to the case, PA-related evidence can certainly be useful to the matter New Hampshire aims to address.

Once Pennsylvania files an amicus brief, which almost assuredly it will do, the 1st Circuit Court will review the original case and determine if it will be heard.

Per the DOJ, at least for now, states and properties within have until June 14 to comply with its recent interpretation of the Wire Act. Likely, though, this case could begin well before that time, as oral arguments could start as soon as April.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield, and Oregon State athletics and the Portland Trail Blazers throughout his career.

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