Originally, Tax Day and doomsday for the new DOJ Wire Act opinion were one and the same. April 15 would be the first day the DOJ would enforce the new, much more restrictive view on the Wire Act.
Now, online casino operators, state lotteries, and others have a little more time to develop contingency plans. According to Online Poker Report, the DOJ will be giving affected companies until June 14 to come into full compliance. There should be an official announcement coming this week.
What does delay mean for PA?
Online casinos largely unaffected
As Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) Executive Director Kevin O’Toole pointed out last week, PA online gambling launch is likely not coming until late June or early July. With no launched product, this will have little impact on the PA online casino business.
Currently, casinos are in search of server locations located exclusively in Pennsylvania. Properties were also required to turn in action plans to PGCB by Feb. 18. These plans needed to explain how the casinos and casino partners planned to address changes in the Wire Act opinion and be in compliance with the newest DOJ take on gaming.
For online casinos, trying to push launch up to April or May would give them a window where the industry was up and running without fear of federal prosecution, which does have its perks. However, PGCB has not been running ahead of schedule with much of anything related to the 2017 gambling expansion law.
PA Lottery could have a legal win in its corner come June
Currently, there are three different lawsuits in New Hampshire challenging the Wire Act opinion’s validity. The first to file was the NH Lottery. Like PA, the state features both interstate draw games like Powerball and Mega Millions as well as an online lottery. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu released the following statement shortly after the suit was filed:
“Today, New Hampshire is taking action to protect public education in New Hampshire. The opinion issued by DOJ puts millions of dollars of funding at risk, and we have a responsibility to stand up for our students.”
Unlike online casino and poker, state lotteries like the PA Lottery can more easily persuade states to take action. The PA online lottery may not be a big revenue generator. However, if there is a threat to the big draw games, PA stands to lose a billion dollars in budget money that assists the state’s senior citizens.
With a number of suits and a deadline on the horizon, the hope is these cases will get days in court, and soon. What is also working in the favor of the NH Lottery and company is that the First Circuit Court has already ruled in favor of the 2011 Wire Act opinion before.
With the delay, there is a shot the Wire Act debate gets settled in court before the new deadline hits. That would be an ideal result for gaming entities, which are still waiting to see the DOJ’s plans for how to enforce this new Wire Act opinion.