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Prez Hopeful Joe Biden: DoJ Wire Act Opinion WRONG

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Things are already heating up in the run-up to next year’s US presidential election, and Democratic candidate Joe Biden may end up receiving the vote from many of the country’s gamblers and poker enthusiasts. After all, he has recently stated that he is very much against a Department of Justice opinion regarding the Federal Wire Act, which would apply the language of the Act to online poker sites, casinos, and other forms of gaming besides sports betting. Biden has stated that he doesn’t believe in any restrictions being added to the US gaming industry, which is the complete antithesis to the views of the current Trump Administration.

Joe Biden Explained His Views on the Wire Act

Biden Weighs in on Federal Wire Act

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It was on Wednesday, Dec. 11 that Democrat Biden addressed members of a group of culinary workers in Las Vegas, Nevada. Members of the union, which represents around 60,000 non-gaming employees of casinos on the Vegas Strip, didn’t pose questions to him regarding gaming. However, after the discussion took place, his campaign communicated with CDC Gaming Reports.

In a statement, the Biden campaign said that he does not “support adding unnecessary restrictions to the gaming industry” before making reference to the Trump Administration and Attorney General William Barr, who have been of a contrary mindset. Additional comments were made on the traditional land-based form of gambling, as well as online gambling, which included remarks on the current legal battles over the Wire Act.

Biden also made a point of stating that gaming contributes a lot toward the economy of Nevada and also provides for the maintenance of 360,000 jobs. He proceeded to say that the current administration’s intent to “turn its back on the international community” has also seen a drop in international travel to the United States too. Although we cannot really accurately read too much into this vague phrasing, it could be possible that Biden wishes to stop persecuting the international offshore gaming sites that are sometimes hamstrung by the federal authorities while attempting to service the U.S. market.

Joe BidenDemocratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Seeks to Eliminate Restrictions on Online Gaming

Not Biden's First Wire Act Remarks

Changing the way that the Justice Department enforces and interprets the Wire Act may seem to be a niche issue that pertains only to a small subset of the nation's population, but it's actually a topic that Joe Biden has addressed before. It is something that Biden seems keen to attend to should he be selected as the Democratic candidate and then proceed to win the White House. At a July 2019 event in Las Vegas, Biden remarked:

I would reverse the White House opinion that was then reversed and overruled by the court. The court is correct. That should be the prevailing position.

Here, Biden is referring to the court case between New Hampshire and the DoJ that saw Judge Paul Barbadoro rule that the DoJ's interpretation of the Wire Act was overly broad. Barbadoro decreed that the scope of the Wire Act was limited to sports betting and had nothing to do with other forms of wagering. Biden agrees with the judge and disagrees with the current administration's efforts to expand the remit of the Wire Act.

Other Dems Weigh In

Biden is not the only Democratic candidate for President to offer an opinion on the Wire Act and the administration’s handling of it. In fact, it was only a few weeks ago that fellow Democratic presidential aspirant Andrew Yang spoke of his own support for legalizing online poker across the United States. This led to a fundraiser being set up by professional player Daniel Negreanu in support of Yang.

Andrew YangDemocrat Andrew Yang Is Also in Favor of Expanded Internet Gambling Legalization

In April, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey made his views on the Wire Act known. He is against the current DoJ interpretation because he believes that it represents Federal interference in matters best left to the states.

Senator Elizabeth Warren also expressed her stance on internet gambling in April. She did not commit either way as to whether or not she felt the Justice Department's policy regarding the Wire Act was correct, but she did say that she's “uneasy” about expanded internet gaming.

With three Democratic candidates voicing their support for legal online gambling opportunities in the US, there seems to be a strong possibility that gamers will get behind one of them. It remains to be seen who will be standing against the current president, Donald Trump, once the elections roll around next year. However, Biden may overshadow the other Democratic presidential hopefuls because according to polling by Politico, he has the support of 30% of Democrat voters, making him the front-runner, well ahead of Yang's 4% and Booker with 3%.

The Status of the Wire Act and Its Interpretation

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There has been massive activity regarding the U.S. Federal Wire Act in recent times, and even now, the proceedings are in a bit of a state of limbo. Basically, the Wire Act restricts the operation of certain sorts of betting businesses within the United States. The original law came into effect in 1961, and in 2011, the DoJ presented a legal opinion on what activities are covered by the Wire Act. This document states that any interstate transmissions of wire communications not relating to sports betting aren’t affected by the Act. Thus, online casino, poker, lottery, and other gambling were deemed to be outside the scope of the Wire Act with the exception of wagering on sports.

Yet, the DoJ reversed its opinion in November 2018 (although the text of this memorandum was not made available to the general public until January 2019). This time around, the Justice Department held that the Wire Act does not solely prohibit betting on sports contests and events. Instead, the DoJ said, it extends to include all forms of wagering across state lines, and that includes online poker sites as well. Betting companies that transact their business within a single state remain unaffected.

The state of New Hampshire wasn’t happy with this reinterpretation of the Wire Act and filed a lawsuit against the DoJ on Feb. 15, 2019. Within that suit, a request was made for the U.S. District Court to vacate the new opinion on the Wire Act because it could have the potential to reduce the state’s yearly lottery profits by millions of dollars. On June 3, 2019, Judge Paul Barbadoro ruled in favor of New Hampshire, declaring the opinion of the Department of Justice invalid.

Paul BarbadoroFederal District Judge Paul Barbadoro Ruled in Favor of New Hampshire Although the DoJ Is Appealing the Case

This led to an appeal by the DoJ. Documents explaining why it believed the court should not have ruled against it should have been submitted by November 12. However, the DoJ failed to meet this deadline and has since been granted an extension on it, with the new date being Dec. 20, 2019.

Interstate Poker Compact Affected?

Three states in the USA already participate in an interstate poker network through a negotiated compact, allowing players from within their respective borders to play in games and tournaments against one another. Those states are Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey, which all provide legal online poker possibilities to their residents at the moment. Even though this is the case, there is just a single poker network that operates within all three states – 888/WSOP.com.

Internet Gaming Compact StatesDespite Signing a Pact to Share Player Liquidity, Traffic Remains Low at NJ, NV, and DE Online Poker Rooms

Pennsylvania also legalized online gambling, including poker, two years ago, and it was on November 4 this year that it went through a soft launch of internet poker. This was exclusively done via PokerStars and its partnership with the land-based Mount Airy Casino within Pennsylvania, and this site remains the only interactive poker option for Pennsylvanians although there are numerous online casinos and sportsbooks running within the state. Meanwhile, West Virginia and Michigan have passed the necessary bills to allow organizations to provide poker over the internet, but they both need to iron out the regulatory rules first before opening their doors to legal online poker.

Many have hoped that Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and/or Michigan will eventually participate in the traffic-sharing compact. With their relatively large populations, they could give quite a boost to the struggling U.S.A. licensed internet poker scene. However, the ongoing litigation between the DoJ and New Hampshire may put these efforts on hold until the dispute is resolved.

Though the tri-state poker network has not made any moves to comply with the Department of Justice's dictates and is currently operating like normal, new online gaming states may be hesitant to join it because of the possibility of its being declared unlawful. Of course, should this occur, the original three participating states would have to abandon their joint poker pool too although all states would still be able to conduct internet gaming, solely within their own jurisdictions, that does not cross state lines.

What Happens If Biden Is Elected?

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Should the 2020 presidential election result in Biden, or indeed Yang or Booker, being elected into power, then it will give one of them the opportunity to install his own Attorney General to the DoJ. This means that there could be a much stronger move toward legalizing online gaming as a whole throughout the United States of America along with toned-down Wire Act enforcement.

William BarrIf a Democrat Wins in 2020, It's Almost Certain That William Barr Will Be Replaced as AG

Still, there’s every possibility that Trump will get to serve another term as the country’s president, meaning that it’s also possible for the administration to remain in favor of blocking online gambling as it has done for the past several years already. Should a Democrat without any objection to a strengthened Wire Act enter the Oval Office, the outcome for gaming would likely be the same.

Playing Online Poker in the United States

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As things stand at the moment, citizens of the U.S.A. who aren’t located in a state where online poker is explicitly legal can only access such gaming options if they visit an offshore platform. Fortunately, there are plenty of these available, and the best of them have been reviewed by us as well. This way, at least there’s the possibility of gaining access to valid and regulated online poker games as a U.S. resident.

Regardless of how the Wire Act case is ultimately decided and irrespective of who wins the presidency, nobody seriously contends that there are any federal laws that prohibit individuals from accessing international poker rooms. The only entities targeted by these statutes are the firms actually operating the sites. Therefore, you're perfectly safe – from a legal point of view – if you want to head online and engage in a few games of cards.

Our thorough guide to internet poker for Americans will give you the info you need to choose the best poker room for your personal preferences and gaming habits. If you'd like to learn more about the laws that apply to online poker, then check out our explanation of why U.S.A. internet poker is legal for players.