The top executive for MGM Resorts International certainly took notice of the Department of Justice’s new interpretation of the federal Wire Act. And he’s evidently not a fan.
MGM CEO Jim Murren was asked about the reversal from the DOJ — saying that the Wire Act is applicable to all forms of gaming, not just sports betting — during his company’s earnings call on Wednesday. The opinion he was asked about goes against both a previous DOJ opinion and precedent in federal court.
It has created some level of uncertainty in the gaming industry, both from casino and online gaming companies, as well as lotteries.
Murren had some choice words for the opinion, and also indicated it wouldn’t affect MGM’s plans for sports betting or anything else, for that matter:
“This latest missive from the DOJ, perplexing is an understatement. And if read as words, it would mean that Powerball as it exists in 44 states in the United States isn’t legal anymore. It’s just we think an absurdly, poorly written and unenforceable opinion. I don’t think anyone in the industry, the gaming industry or the sports betting industry, feels any differently [in the wake of the opinion].”
There is even some question about if the opinion calls into question the legality of current online sports betting. But with little information from the DOJ other than the existence of the new opinion, it opens everything up to a lot of speculation.
Murren’s comments come days after the American Gaming Association — of which MGM is a member — did not mention the Wire Act in its Congressional priorities.
Murren has been talking about the opportunity that it sees in sports betting and online sports wagering for months. A joint venture with GVC is still in its early days and is pointed at both present and future markets for sports wagering. It’s also entered into deals with the top sports leagues in the US, such as the NBA and Major League Baseball.
MGM is already offering sports gambling in Nevada, New Jersey and Mississippi, and will look to expand in other markets — like Michigan and New York — if the opportunity arises. It’s currently trailing behind a lot of operators in NJ online sports betting in revenue figures that also came out today.