Will Interstate Gaming Ever Get Allowed in the US?

Will Interstate Gaming Ever Get Allowed in the US?

Online gambling is taking the internet by storm. There is no doubt about that. Despite this sector being around for twenty-five years, always maintaining an upwards trajectory, it got a massive shot in the arm with government-issued stay-at-home measures and land-based establishments shutting down for the better part of 2020. Now, Fortune Business Insights predicts that this industry will begin raking in annual revenues of $158 billion in the next six years.

The US has long had a reputation for being a not-so-friendly gambling territory. That is so, despite what movies about people visiting Las Vegas have taught the public. The reality is that, until recently, the number of US states with commercial gaming venues was scarce, and only five regions allow their residents to play casino-style games over the internet for real money. These are New Jersey, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Except for West Virginia, the states listed in the previous sentence also allow digital card action, with poker online in Nevada launching first in the US.

Per law, residents of US territories that regulate online gambling can play casino games freely at sites licensed by their state’s regulatory body. Yet, they cannot test their luck at a platform based in another state where this activity is legal. For example, New Jerseyans cannot enjoy live dealer blackjack or poker at a site run by operators licensed in Delaware. Though, for decades, Americans, in general, have been playing at offshore sites overseen by international regulators without fearing any prosecution. The legality regarding doing so is a bit muddy. But, there is no history of anyone facing any consequences for partaking in casino entertainment at foreign platforms. In what follows, we explain what currently stops interstate gambling in the United States and the potential for this situation to change soon.

The Federal Wire Act of 1961

Legal systems are complex beasts. Laws passed decades ago that are inapplicable to modern society are still active, and procedures to replace them are extensive and packed with obstacles. One such example is the Interstate Anti-Crime Act or better known as the Wire Act of 196. It got passed to prohibit criminal organizations from running betting businesses that have nationwide reach in the United States by accepting wagers on sporting events over the telephone. This law got suggested and pushed by Robert F. Kennedy to cripple mob activity.

Nevertheless, while it may have been an excellent piece of legislation in its day, it is no longer valid. The phrase – interstate transmission of wire communications has an entirely different meaning in the 2020s, as technology advances and the US and the world are getting more global by the day. In 2011, the DOJ released a formal legal opinion stating that it agrees that the scope of this Act only relates to sports betting. Unfortunately, in 2018, it reverted its stance laid out eight years before. Things are now in a state of legal limbo concerning how the DOJ interprets this law and its extent.

What Are the Chances That the Wire Act Will Get Repealed?

Slim. Even though its effects seem to conflict with its original intention. Nowadays, gambling is a massive industry, as evident by the figures discussed above. Thus, it makes little sense to stop economic growth and not fill government coffers with tax revenues. The Wire Act is no longer fighting organized crime or promoting responsible gambling.

All that said, even if this law has outlived its purpose, the process of sending it to the annals of history is not simple. Bill Miller, the CEO of the American Gaming Association, is a major proponent of this move. However, even with substantial lobbying, it is doubtful that the Wire Act will disappear in the next few years. 

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash