2020 might turn out to be a great year for the gambling industry in Florida and in the US in general. There are very few states where you can gamble online, not to mention that the type of gambling activities that are legalized is very limited. For instance, many states have legalized daily fantasy sports, but you are not allowed to place wagers on sports games.
Gambling in the US is heavily restricted
In the wake of the new regulations in a number of US states, Google decided to change its policy on gambling advertising and to allow marketing of gambling-related products and services in the US as there are plenty of states where now gambling activities are permitted.
The ban on gambling advertising was previously lifted for several US states where sports betting has already been allowed, such as West Virginia, Nevada and New Jersey.
In 2018 an initiative was put forward to legalize daily fantasy sports in Florida. This wasn’t the first attempt to legalize this type of activity in the state of Florida. The previous attempt that was launched back in 2015, was unsuccessful.
The scope of the Wire Act
One of the federal laws that is proving to be a problem for the legalization of gambling in the US is the Wire Act. The Interstate or Federal Wire Act was passed in 1961. The term wire clearly refers to telephone communications and the act specifies that placing a bet over the phone where the bettor is calling from one state while the operator is located in another is illegal.
While it is pretty obvious that the act applies to sports betting and to bets placed over the phone only, but there have been different interpretations regarding its application and scope.
The DOJ opinion change
In 2011 the US Department of Justice issued an opinion on the scope of the said Wire Act and concluded that the act only applies to sports bets placed from someone located in one state with an operator located in another so that it doesn’t apply to non-sporting events or contests. That settled, for the time being, the first controversy caused by the act, that is whether it applies to non-sporting wagers. The second and perhaps more important thing to consider was its application with regards to internet betting. Some felt that the law couldn’t apply to internet betting since there was no internet back in 1961.
The reversal of the 2011 opinion came seven years after its initial release. Namely in November 2018 the DOJ issued another opinion stating that the Act isn’t limited only to sporting events, i.e. that it would apply to all forms of gambling. The enforcement of the new opinion was postponed giving businesses time to adapt. The opinion was later challenged by the state of New Hampshire, and a local District Court reversed the opinion reverting to the original opinion from 2011, meaning that the Wire Act would from that point onwards only apply to sports betting.
A new era ahead of the US?
Now, in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, the Wire Act is back in the focus. Joe Biden, who has announced his candidacy in the Democratic Party presidential primaries, at a recent event in Vegas stated that he feels that the Wire Act shouldn’t apply to online gambling and shouldn’t be interpreted as a federal ban on online gambling.
Biden is probably the most prominent figure to draw attention to this issue, but who’s to say that there will be no other candidates and prominent politicians to support an initiative to repeal the Wire Act.
Maybe it won’t be long before US players will be able to play online casino games, such as Jammin’ Jars slot at legal, authorized online casino sites.
It might be a long and laborious battle before the federal ban on gambling is lifted, but it is evident that a wind of change is blowing through the US.