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State of the Union: Montana, Wire Act, Colorado and more

Insight | Analysis

This week’s State of the Union, in partnership with Segev LLP, covers Montana becoming the first state to pass sports betting legislation in 2019. In other news, the New Hampshire Lottery supplier  Neopollard Interactive has hit back at the “charade” of the DoJ’s Wire Act stance, while New Jersey’s Attorney General has launched a lawsuit against the Department.

Montana Governor approves lottery-led sports betting
Montana has become the first US state to legalise sports wagering in 2019 after Governor Steve Bullock signed a bill into law.

Bullock has opted to approve House Bill 725, also known as the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2019. Senate Bill 330, the other sports betting bill to reach his desk – and one that would have opened up the market to private operators – was vetoed.

Passed by the House last month, HB725 makes the Montana Lottery the sole operator of sports betting services in the state across online, mobile and land-based.

The state will now move to establish a state lottery and wagering commission to operate sports betting and regulate the market, with only licensed vendors permitted to offer sports wagering.

NJ AG launches lawsuit against DoJ
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has filed a lawsuit accusing the US Department of Justice (DoJ) of violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). 

Grewal states that the DoJ has failed to provide answers in response to his FOIA request, filed in February 2019, for documents related to its decision to revise its stance on the Wire Act. The request was to ascertain whether lobbyists had played a role in the policy shift.

The DoJ confirmed that it received the FOIA request in March, and that it would be granted expedited processing. However, the Department has provided no records in response to the request, and provided no legal grounds for withholding the information. 

Colorado betting bill goes to Governor
Colorado has taken a step closer to legalising sports wagering after the state’s Senate voted to approve a bill, with Governor Jared Polis’s signature all that is required for the bill to come into law.

HB19-1327 passed the Senate without amendments by a vote of 27-8 on May 3, the day that Colorado’s 2019 legislative session had been due to conclude.

The bill was introduced on April 18 and has quickly passed through the state’s legislative progress. Last week, it passed a third vote in the Colorado House after 58 Representatives backed the bill and six voted against.

HB19-1327 establishes the Colorado Gaming Control Commission to regulate the sector, and imposes a 10% gross revenue tax on sports wagering operators. The measure would need to be put to voters in order to come into effect and this could take place at the state’s general election in November.

Exact licence fees are not set out in the bill, but it does state that any licence or renewal fee should cover the Commission’s costs of processing each application and conducting background checks. However, this must not exceed $125,000 (£95,480/€111,640).

NH attacks DoJ over twist in Wire Act saga
NeoPollard Interactive, the vendor for the New Hampshire Lottery, has hit out at the Department of Justice (DOJ) over its uncertainty as to whether the Wire Act applies to interstate and online lotteries, calling for the “charade to end”.

The DOJ is in the process of reviewing whether the 1961 Wire Act covers state lotteries and their vendors, having already made several statements on the case this year.

In January, the DOJ revised its 2011 ruling on the Wire Act to state that the law’s prohibition applies to all forms of gambling and not just sports betting. However, the DOJ last month said that this revised stance does not address the legality of interstate and online lotteries.

The April filing came in response to a legal challenge from New Hampshire over the revised opinion, and NeoPollard has now made a further filing on the matter in New Hampshire District Court.

Genius Sports lands Nascar betting deal
Sports data solutions provider Genius Sports has brokered a deal with Nascar to develop an official betting product for the North American stock-car racing series.

Genius will utilise the official Nascar data feed to build the solution, which will feature up-to-the-minute odds and a suite of traditional wagers and prop bets, that can be rolled out by operator partners.

The deal, the first of its kind for Nascar in the US market, will also establish Genius become the exclusive provider of Nascar data to licensed sportsbooks around the world.

Genius has a similar deal in place with the National Basketball Association in the US.

GiG hit with $25k New Jersey fine
Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) has been fined $25,000 (£19,140/€22,300) by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) for breaching geolocation rules in the US state.

The operator accepted a single online bet from someone located outside of New Jersey’s state boundaries.

The NJDGE has opted not to disclose the value of this bet nor the type of wager that was placed.

New Jersey law strictly limits operators to only taking bets from people who are inside the state and the regulator has issued the fine as a result of this breach.

GiG, which is yet to comment on the ruling, won approval to launch its online gambling services in New Jersey in June 2018. This January, GiG launched a new land-based and online sportsbook in partnership with Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.