The U.S. Justice Department now says federal law bars all internet gambling, reversing its position from 2011 that only sports betting is prohibited under a law passed 50 years earlier.
The reversal was prompted by the department’s criminal division, which prosecutes illegal gambling. The opinion issued about seven years ago that the 1961 Wire Act only banned sports gambling was a misinterpretation of the statute, according to a 23-page opinion by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel dated Nov. 2 and made public Monday.
The new reading of the law probably will be tested in the courts as judges may entertain challenges to the government’s view of the law’s scope, the Justice Department said. It may also affect states that began selling lottery tickets online after the 2011 opinion, as well as casinos that offer online gambling.
A coalition backed by billionaire casino executive Sheldon Adelson lobbied the Justice Department in 2017 to reconsider its 2011 decision that cleared the way for states to allow online gambling.