Igaming Focus: Wire Act – Is this a defining moment for poker in the U.S.? By Hannah Gannagé-Stewart, CDC Gaming Reports July 6, 2021 at 8:00 am Few in the industry wouldn’t welcome more clarity around the Wire Act. For years it has hung over the burgeoning U.S. igaming market like a Sword of Damocles. However, the passing of last month’s deadline for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to appeal a First Circuit decision stating that, contrary to the DOJ’s 2018 interpretation, the Wire Act only applies to sports betting, has come as a relief. Perhaps nowhere more so than among those in the poker industry, where interstate liquidity is now a real possibility and with that a boom looks likely. If states are able to combine player pools, the size of the industry is set on a path for growth; more players, quite simply, equals more money. A more mature regulated market also means fewer poker players will be tempted to play with offshore operators, growing the industry further. So far seven states have legalized online poker as part of their gambling regimes, although West Virginia is yet to launch a poker platform. It is now possible that an interstate player pool could be established, much as Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware share players through their Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). MSIGA itself could be expanded to other states, with 888 Holdings PLC already announcing plans to extend it to Michigan and Pennsylvania. The potential for compacts and agreements is endless, but perhaps it isn’t that simple just yet. While U.S. attorney general Merrick Garland is clearly not moved to fight for the DOJ’s 2018 opinion to be upheld, he is under mounting pressure to clarify the intentions of the Wire Act once and for all. Attorneys General from 26 states signed a letter calling for Merrick to formally rescind the DOJ’s 2018 opinion, which placed regulated online lottery and casino operators at risk of prosecution under the Act. New Jersey attorney general Gurbir Grewal called on Garland to “lift the fog of ambiguity surrounding” the issue, saying: “Internet gaming has for years been, and remains, an essential industry here, one the Department of Justice viewed since 2011 as perfectly legal until its baseless backtracking in 2018.” However, the question still remains why should there be a Wire Act at all, for sports betting let alone any other form of gambling? The Act itself dates back to 1961, long before the internet. It was initially an attempt to curtail the Mob, by preventing large-scale interstate gambling transactions, while friendly wagers were broadly considered out of scope. It was not a law created with this future in mind, and yet it continues to take up a considerable amount of time and money, only to remain, essentially, in a strange nonsensical legal purgatory where, even if clarity on its scope is achieved, clarity on its purpose still seems less forthcoming. The UK is currently reviewing its gambling regulations to bring them in line with an online world, in which the pace and scale of play is beyond anything that could have been imagined when the laws were drawn up in 2005. Can a law created ostensibly to control organised crime in the 1960s still be relevant now? Or does it need re-interpreting for the modern era and amending to address any real threats that exist within a rapidly expanding gambling market? It might be that once the more pressing issues of the last 18 months are less all-encompassing, the attorney general will offer greater clarity. Until then, though, the future looks bright for the U.S. poker market and, as other states regulate, greater certainty around the Wire Act may encourage more of them to add poker into their legislation – this could mark the start of a renaissance for the once controversial U.S. poker industry.