WV Attorney General Blasts DOJ On Wire Act: Keep Hands Off Lottery

Written By Kim Yuhl on March 26, 2019 - Last Updated on September 15, 2022
Leave WV Lottery alone

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading efforts to clarify the impact of the recently revised Wire Act opinion on the West Virginia Lottery.

Morrissey brought together 25 attorneys general to formally express grave concern over the opinion from the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel that became public earlier this year.

On Thursday, Morrisey and the coalition of attorneys general sent a letter to US Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein contending the opinion could infringe on areas typically regulated by the states, including the WV Lottery.

From the letter:

“We are concerned that the consequences of this interpretation reach into areas of traditional state sovereignty. Under the Opinion, conduct that was long understood to be legal now invites exposure to severe criminal penalties. The rationale in the Opinion is not limited to online gaming; it also casts significant doubt on the continued vitality of multi-state lottery games such as Powerball and Mega Millions …”

WV leads the charge to protect the Lottery

The revised opinion expanded the 2011 view which prohibited the transmission of sports data between states. The OLC contends in its latest opinion that the intent of the Wire Act applies to all forms of gambling.

As such, the opinion stands to impact state-run and multi-state lotteries negatively, including national favorites:

  • Mega Millions
  • Powerball

Morrisey contends:

“The loss of these programs would have devastating consequences for our States. State-run and multi-state lotteries are a consistent source of state revenue, representing many billions of dollars in annual funding used to fund vital state services such as schools and other educational initiatives, services for senior citizens, and infrastructure projects.”

The letter received support from both Democrats and Republicans. The bipartisan effort challenges the legal foundation of the opinion and hopes to bring awareness to the current reality of today’s digital world.

“The increasingly interstate nature of the internet and cellular transmissions means that even traditionally in-state lotteries — those operated by a single State and open only to players within the State’s borders— might be interpreted as running afoul of the new Opinion as well,” writes Morrisey.

The letter follows a lawsuit filed by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, joined by New Jersey and Michigan challenging the legal opinion.

But wait, there’s more than the WV Lottery at stake

Since early March, the sole WV mobile sports betting app closed its betting windows. It’s somewhat puzzling, considering the popularity of mobile sports betting, why the other three WV sportsbooks have not launched online sports betting.

State Lottery Director John Myers alludes to the reason of growing concerns over the opinion.

Myers spoke to the WV Metro News:

“It’s kind of given everybody caution on how to move forward until we can get that resolved. We are doing everything we can to try and work through that. We’ve been working through our national organization to try and get some idea on how the DOJ decision is going to come down.”

Additionally, West Virginia online casinos are on the verge of becoming a reality. The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act is just a signature away from becoming law. The roll-out of online casinos in West Virginia may be impacted similarly to online sports betting.

Free for coffee? Morrisey requests a sit-down

The coalition’s letter wants to meet with Barr and Rosenstein. Additionally, it seeks an additional 90 days on top of the original 90-day compliance window.

Morrissey received support from attorneys general in:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
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Written by
Kim Yuhl

Kim Yuhl has over five years of experience writing about poker culture, the online gambling industry, and more recently, the legalization of sports betting.

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