Bill Introduced in Congress Would Undo DOJ Reinterpretation of Wire Act

by Snell & Wilmer

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act, H.R. 4301, 113th Cong. (2nd Sess. 2014), S. 2159, 113th Cong. (2nd Sess. 2014) (RAWA), was introduced in Congress on March 26, 2014. The bill amends provisions of the federal criminal code, commonly known as the Wire Act,[1] to prohibit all forms of Internet gambling in the United States except for horse racing. If enacted, the bill would restore the federal ban on Internet gaming.

The Wire Act - 18 U.S.C. § 1084

The Wire Act was originally enacted in 1961 as part of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s effort to combat organized crime and, specifically, interstate gambling. The statute’s purpose was to cut “the Wire” - the name organized criminals gave to the telegraph wire used by illegal bookies to get race results before their bettors. Although intended to shut down interstate bookmaking on sporting events, the Wire Act was, for decades, interpreted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as outlawing all interstate gambling.

DOJ’s 2011 Memo

In December 2011, DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) released a memorandum declaring that the Wire Act’s prohibition on interstate gambling applies to sports betting only. The DOJ memo resulted from the Illinois and New York state lotteries’ request for clarification of the law as it related to the selling of intrastate subscriptions. The Illinois and New York lotteries simply wanted to know if out-of-state payment processors could be used for those Internet purchases. However, DOJ’s response was far broader in scope, opining that not only can states sell lottery ticket subscriptions over the Internet and use out-of-state payment processors, but suggesting that the operation of any game legal under state law did not violate the Act, so long as it was not considered sports betting. In essence, the memo clarified DOJ’s position that the Wire Act does not apply to intrastate non-sports wagering to the extent it complies with applicable state law.

Congressional Response to the OLC Memo

Unhappy with DOJ’s reinterpretation of the Wire Act, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced, in March, legislation known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act. The bill would restore the Wire Act’s ban on all Internet gaming, and does not include any carve-out for existing state-regulated online gambling, including the online gambling now allowed under the laws of Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey. Instead, any state wanting to legalize online gaming would have to obtain permission from Congress. The bill does, however, contain a partial exemption for state lotteries. The main concern raised by this proposed legislation is that, historically, it has always been up to the states to determine their own public policies with respect to gambling. This legislation would clearly change that long-standing approach of the federal government and infringe upon sovereignty of the several states. Another concern is that RAWA would seem to be in direct conflict with another proposal, supposedly being worked on by Nevada Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller that would “fix” the Wire Act issue, while ensuring a safe harbor for online poker. RAWA has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

The proposed bill can be found here.


[1] 18 U.S.C. § 1084 (1994).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Snell & Wilmer | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Snell & Wilmer

Snell & Wilmer on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.