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Web Opponents Sue Over Wire Act Interpretation

Web Opponents Sue Over Wire Act  Interpretation

A conservative law group is suing the U.S. Department of Justice for documents related to a 2011 policy change that recognizes the right of states to legalize internet gambling within their borders.

Judicial Watch says the department ignored a request filed under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act for records it claims are needed to shed light on the opinion by the department’s legal counsel, which broke with the Bush administration’s interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act as a blanket ban on web gambling nationwide.

Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, the Republican Party’s largest campaign contributor and a vehement opponent of internet gambling, is the driving force behind a bill currently in Congress titled “Restoration of America’s Wire Act” that would codify such a ban as federal law. If passed, it would override legalization efforts under way in several states and dismantle the regulatory regimes already established in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.

The Judicial Watch lawsuit, filed July 15 in U.S. District Court in Washington, asks the court to force the department to produce records in connection with the 2011 opinion, which was issued in response to queries by the state lotteries of New York and Illinois. The lotteries sought authorization to sell tickets online, and got the green light to do so when the department’s legal office concluded that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting and not other forms of gambling.

“When the Justice Department reverses its own interpretation of a federal statute so quickly and so completely, the American people have a right to know why,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said.

The department was granted an extension until September 18 to file a formal response to the suit.