97°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Judge: Federal wagering law only applies to sports gambling

Updated June 3, 2019 - 4:50 pm

Nevada’s gaming industry can take a sigh of relief after a federal judge ruled Monday that a law prohibiting interstate wagering applies only to sports gambling.

Judge Paul Barbadoro’s ruling sets aside a Justice Department opinion that some states feared would make online lottery activities illegal and put the programs they fund at risk.

“The Nevada gaming industry can rest easier that both mobile sports wagering and Internet poker are not in immediate danger of being closed down,” Tony Cabot, a professor at UNLV and a former gaming attorney, said via email. “Moreover, the Interstate Poker Compacts that allow Nevada casinos to operate in conjunction with poker operations in other states is safe for the time being.”

State Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan said the ruling is a good thing for Nevada and other states that have legalized gaming.

“This would have directly affected the multistate internet agreement for interactive poker, so we’re very pleased with the decision.”

The judge’s decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, which said a Justice Department opinion issued last year subjects its employees to prosecution, creates uncertainty about whether it should cease operations, and could cost the state more than $90 million a year.

The case revolves around the Wire Act, a 1961 law meant to target the mob that prohibits interstate wagering. Decades later and with the internet ruling everyone’s lives, New York and Illinois asked the Obama administration whether selling lottery tickets online violated the law.

The department in 2011 concluded that online gambling within states that does not involve sporting events would not break the law. But the agency changed its mind in November, interpreting the act as applying to any form of gambling that crosses state lines, not just sports betting. Some feared that, if strictly interpreted, that opinion would outlaw lottery tickets sold online and prohibit all lottery-related activities that use the internet.

That raised concerns about the viability of online poker and other gambling across states, as well as state lotteries. Money from lotteries typically funds a variety of programs, from education to senior citizen services.

On Monday, Barbadoro said New Hampshire had the standing to sue and that the Wire Act was limited to sports gambling.

“Today’s ruling is a historic victory for the State of New Hampshire and we are proud to have led this effort,” said Gov. Chris Sununu. “New Hampshire stood up, took action, and won — all to protect public education in our state.”

But Cabot said it’s not the end of the road for the Wire Act. The Department of Justice can — and most likely will — appeal the decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. If they lose, they could then seek an appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court.

It won’t be an easy argument. Cabot said the New Hampshire Federal District Court’s decision was persuasive and well-reasoned and the 2011 interpretation was a fair and logical reading, while the 2018 Department of Justice opinion “strained logic.”

Chris Grove, a managing director at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, said while the decision does give comfort to states like Nevada, it leaves some questions open.

“The broader question of whether or not online gambling can truly be interstate — and therefore removed from federal jurisdiction — was not addressed by the decision,” he said via email. “That question will be a critical one as the discussion between states and the federal government around legal online gambling continues to evolve.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Richard N. Velotta and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Golden Knights Marc-Andre Fleury sells Las Vegas home - VIDEO
Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has sold his custom home Southern Highlands home in Las Vegas for $2.3 million.
Las Vegas Strip resorts slow to welcome Alexa, Google Home Hub
Alexa, where are you? Smart home and hospitality technology was big at CES in early January. Amazon and Google promoted their voice-activated speakers Alexa and Google Home Hub. Hospitality executives have called the speakers the industry’s future. Yet for all the hype, the revolution is unfolding at a cautious pace on the Strip as well as in other major U.S. hospitality markets. Hotels are focusing their consumer-facing technology investments on adding streaming capabilities, like Netflix, and enhancing their mobile apps, a December report by Hospitality Technology showed. Voice-enabled technology is 10th on that priority list.
What is MGM 2020
MGM Resorts International announced its MGM 2020 plan in January, The plan would improve cash flow by $200 million annually by the end of 2020 and an additional $100 million by the end of 2021. 1,070 jobs were cut as part of the cost-cutting initiative. 881 of those were Las Vegas employees, mostly in management or mid-management positions. Jim Murren
What is MGM 2020
MGM Resorts International announced its MGM 2020 plan in January, The plan would improve cash flow by $200 million annually by the end of 2020 and an additional $100 million by the end of 2021. 1,070 jobs were cut as part of the cost-cutting initiative. 881 of those were Las Vegas employees, mostly in management or mid-management positions. Jim Murren
Find next-level experience
One minute, you’re just trimming hedges and shooting the breeze with your neighbor. But then he brings up Vegas and you’re thinking about the incredible meals, world-class hotels, pools inside of pools and unparalleled entertainment. You’re thinking about iconic artist residencies like Aerosmith. Priorities take shape. Vegas first, lawn and everything else, second. Just like that, Vegas Changes Everything. (Visti Las Vegas/Youtube)
Vegas Changes Everything
A weekend getaway is nice for anyone, but a weekend getaway in Vegas ... that’s a next-level experience with shows, clubs, spas and more. With a chance to see iconic artist residencies like Gwen Stefani, you might just find yourself going from pushing your child on a swing, to pushing back a birthday party. See how Vegas Changes Everything. (Visit Las Vegas/YouTube)
How much do Las Vegas casino CEOs make?
Las Vegas gaming CEOs made anywhere between $1 million and $24 million last year, according to company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ((Las Vegas Review-Journal)
30-year-old Rio needs a little TLC
Nearly 30 years after the Rio opened, the red and blue jewel that helped catapult Las Vegas to a new level with its buffet and nightclub has lost its status along with its shine.
The latest on the Drew Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eli Segall recounts his tour of the Drew Las Vegas, formerly the Fontainebleau, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinball Hall of Fame to move near south Strip
Operators of the Pinball Hall of Fame have been approved to build a new, larger arcade near the south edge of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Russel Road. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
National Hardware Show underway Las Vegas
The National Hardware Show kicked off Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Caesars for sale?
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has been swept up in takeover speculation since the company’s share price tumbled last year amid disappointing earnings and concerns over a recession. Amid the decline, hedge funds scooped up shares. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn began buying shares of Caesars as early as January. Icahn acquired nearly 18 percent by mid-March. In February Icahn called on the Caesars board to study a sale as a way to boost shareholder value.
Las Vegas home prices
Las Vegas home prices grew fastest among major markets in February for the ninth straight month. But amid affordability concerns, the growth rate has slowed down. Southern Nevada prices in February were up 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. The last time Las Vegas' price growth fell below 10% was in September 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported.
Free Parking Coming To Wynn
Free parking will come to the Wynn and Encore resorts on May 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Founding Venetian employees talk about 20 years at the Strip resort
The Venetian, which opened May 3, 1999, is celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Seven original employees talk about opening the luxury resort and working there for two decades. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Circa aiming for December 2020 opening
The 1.25-million-square-foot property will have 44-stories and 777-rooms. It will also have a separate nine-story, 1,201-space parking garage.
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TI/Mirage Tram reopens
The tram that shuttles guests between TI and Mirage reopened this week after being closed for much of 2018.
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
THE LATEST
NV Energy, Resorts World announce 20-year agreement

While other under-construction projects like the Raiders’ Las Vegas Stadium , Drew Las Vegas , and MSG Sphere have expressed interest in leaving NV Energy before turning any lights on, Resorts World Las Vegas is going all-in with Nevada’s monopoly utility.