DOJ to Congress: 'The Wire Act Covers All Forms of Online Gambling'

30 July 2003

The U.S. Department of Justice on July 14 sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, stating that it believes current federal law prohibits all forms of Internet gambling.

The letter was a follow-up to Rep. John Conyers', D-Mich., questions to the DOJ about Internet gambling at a Judiciary Committee hearing on April 29 concerning HR 21, the "Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act."

In the letter, which is signed by William E. Moschella, assistant attorney general, the DOJ states that online gambling is a violation of the Interstate Wire Act because "The Department of Justice believes that the transmission of a bet or wager over the Internet would constitute such a use of a wire communication facility in interstate or foreign commerce."

Importantly, in the letter, the DOJ also takes the opportunity to say that it believes HR 21 could expand legal gambling opportunities.

The department also states that it believes the Fifth Circuit's decision on In re Mastercard, which held that the Wire Act may prevent other types of online gambling but does not prevent casino gambling online, was not decided correctly.

"In addition to believing that this case was wrongly decided on the law, the United States was not a party in that case and does not believe that it would constitute binding precedent in other circuits," the letter states.

Click here to view a copy of the DOJ letter.