Sweeney Asks Lesniak To Challenge Justice Department’s Opinion on Non-Sports Gaming
TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney has asked former Senator Raymond Lesniak to prepare a response asking the Justice Department to reconsider its reversal of its prior opinion of whether the Wire Act applies to non-sports gambling. The new opinion threatens the success enjoyed by New Jersey casinos, the jobs and state revenue created from online gaming and could have a negative impact on sports betting at New Jersey’s casinos and racetracks.
Online gaming generated nearly $300 million in 2018 revenue, helping catapult Atlantic City to its best year-over-year gain in total gaming revenue since 1983.
“The new Justice Department opinion threatens the significant boost enjoyed by New Jersey casinos, the jobs and state revenues from online gaming and it could have a negative impact on sports betting at our casinos and racetracks,” said Senator Sweeney. “We don’t want to lose the hard fought gains that are helping to revive Atlantic City and the state’s gaming industry.”
Lesniak sponsored and championed both online gaming and sports betting in New Jersey and led the fight to the Supreme Court that resulted in a landmark decision overturning the ban on sports gaming.
“It looks like I will have to go to court again to straighten out the Justice Department’s overreaching on states’ rights, just as I did with sports betting,” said Lesniak. “This opinion is outrageous. If Congress won’t fix it, I will through the judicial process.”
Lesniak will take on the responsibilities pro bono.
The Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel issued a replacement for its 2011 opinion which said that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting. The new opinion, which marks a reversal for the department, now makes the Wire Act applicable to any form of gambling that crosses state lines. As a result, there are all sorts of possible online activities that the Wire Act could now interfere with, including online poker, fantasy sports, racetracks and online lottery sales.
The Justice Department has delayed its implementation for 90 days and will seek comments during that period. Lesniak will seek a declaratory judgement that the opinion is contrary to the clear intent of the Wire Act.