Wire Act opinion casts a shadow on interstate online poker

WSOP Online Bracelets Might Be Off Limits In New Jersey, Thanks To Wire Act Opinion

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The new Wire Act opinion from the US Department of Justice may have claimed its first victim.

In a scheduling announcement for the 2019 World Series of Poker, the company wouldn’t commit to saying if online poker players in New Jersey will be allowed to compete in online bracelet events this summer.

From the press release:

“Eligibility for New Jersey players in WSOP.com online gold bracelet events has yet to be determined.”

The uncertainty surrounding WSOP NJ participation undoubtedly stems from the Wire Act reinterpretation.

It was fun while it lasted…

Online bracelet events were available to WSOP NJ players for the first time last year, following New Jersey’s entry into the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association (MSIGA). Interest was strong, too, with at least 565 players participating from outside of Nevada.

Whether or not those NJ players can join again this year won’t be clear until the DOJ issues updated enforcement guidelines for federal prosecutors.

A post-opinion memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gives states 90 days to move into compliance. That means guidelines must be issued on or before April 15 — a date that some online poker players will instantly recognize.

Tax day just happens to coincide with one of the most dubious dates in online poker history: Black Friday.

Until those guidelines are in place, it’s difficult to know exactly what compliance means. The DOJ could enforce the opinion in several different ways.

Interstate online poker in peril

Of all the forms of legal internet gambling in the US, the interstate agreement that allows Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey to pool poker players may be in the most jeopardy.

Short of the unthinkable — DOJ guidelines completely undercutting the opinion (something along the lines of limiting prosecution to unlicensed online gambling operators) —  it’s hard to envision a scenario where interstate online poker survives.

If the DOJ specifically targets the MSIGA, though, it would likely ensnare a much bigger fish in its net.

Lottery in limbo, too

The potential impact on state lottery programs is not sitting well with stakeholders.

Interstate lottery games like Powerball utilize a data infrastructure similar to online poker. Most route information pertaining to retail purchases to clearinghouses and servers located in other states.

If the Wire Act opinion extends to lotteries, it would wreak havoc on state budgets across the nation.

Not surprisingly, the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL) sent a succinct and harshly worded letter to the DOJ soon after the opinion surfaced.

More recently, two separate groups of New Hampshire Lottery stakeholders have filed federal lawsuits.

2019 WSOP online bracelet schedule

The 2019 World Series of Poker schedule lists a record nine online bracelet events this year:

That’s by far the most since the WSOP first adopted them in 2015. In fact, this year’s nine equals the total number of online bracelet events held from 2015-2018.

WSOP.com is also offering a robust satellite schedule for those events, including a 25-Seat Scramble.

The scramble has been a popular offering in recent years, awarding seats into the WSOP Main Event at $10,000 apiece. This year’s 25-Seat Scramble will run on June 30.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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