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US Representatives move to defund Wire Act enforcement


An amendment to a federal bill that determines funding granted to the Department of Justice seeks to block the money from being used to enforce its revised stance on the 1961 Wire Act. 

HR3055, the Commerce, Justice, Science, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, 2020, sets out federal funding for a variety of government departments and initiatives. 

Among the departments which will have its funding for 2020 established by the bill is the Department of Justice. 

However, should the amendment be accepted, the Department will not be able to use the money to enforce the Office of Legal Counsel’s stance that the Wire Act applies to all forms of gambling, and not just sports betting.

It was filed by Georgia Representatives Hank Johnson and Sanford Bishop, Kentucky’s Andy Barr and New Hampshire’s Chris Pappas, and comes after the Department instructed all staff that it would not enforce the new stance until December 31, 2019.

The amendment will be debated by the House Rules Committee, which will determine whether it will be adopted, but it could further hinder the DoJ’s efforts to enforce its revised ruling. 

The Department has already seen its stance set aside by the New Hampshire District Court, in favour of a 2011 interpretation that ruled the 1961 legislation only applied to sports betting, following a challenge on behalf of the state lottery. 

While it is yet to confirm that it will appeal this ruling, the memo on delaying enforcement action suggested that it could well fight the court decision.