Judicial Watch Sues US Department of Justice over 2011 UIGEA Policy Change

Judicial Watch is suing the U.S. Department of Justice over its 2011 legal opinion which opened the door to online gambling. The lawsuit by the conservative group is further sign that the forces of anti-gambling in the United States believe Restore America’s Wire Act is unlikely to be passed.

Judicial Watch filed papers on Thursday calling for documents pertaining to the ruling. The suit, which was filed in US District Court in Washington DC, challenges the legitimacy of the DOJ ruling on which types of betting are banned under the the 1961 Wire Act and the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

Federal Laws on Internet Gambling

From 2006 to 2011, the Justice Department’s stance towards online gambling suggested sports betting, poker, and casino betting online were all illegal. The UIGEA therefore prosecuted electronic money transfer sites which handled cash associated with online casinos, card rooms, and sportsbooks.

UIGEA Interpretations

The 2011 DOJ ruling suggested the Wire Act and UIGEA only pertained to sports gambling, though. Citing a specific passage of the Wire Act which named sports betting as its focus, the ruling said only bookmaker business was banned under the law. Proponents of online gambling and the DOJ ruling have pointed out no one could have predicted online casinos and bookmaker sites in 1961, so it is absurd to use the law to ban such websites now.

Eric Holder’s Justice Department ruling opened the door for New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware to legalize online casinos and poker sites inside their boundaries. No other states have followed suit, though movements are afoot in California and Pennsylvania to legalize online poker–if not casino sites. Speculation has surfaced over the months that iGaming would be legalized in Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Indiana, and Washington state.

UIGEA and Online Lotteries

The ruling also allowed certain states to legalize online lottery sales, which is the reason the DOJ was asked for its opinion in the first case. The Justice Department opinion was in answer to questions by the states of New York and Illinois.

Judicial Watch stated in a July 2015 press release that it filed the lawsuit to gain information on the opinion, because the department had ignored its 2014 petition to gain that paperwork. According to Judicial Watch, the organization had given the Justice Department until February 18 of this year to comply with its request–or face a lawsuit.

Tom Fitton Press Release

In discussing the lawsuit this week, the president of Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, released an inflammatory press release accusing America’s highest prosecutorial division of corruption.

Mr. Fitton said the decision not to disclose information led him to believe the DOJ is seeking “to violate federal records law rather than disclose information, Americans can presume corruption behind its decision to unilaterally legalize widespread Internet gambling.

About Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch was founded in 1994 by conservative attorney Larry Klayman to promote transparency and accountability in the US government. The organization brought 18 lawsuits against the Clinton Administration, while claiming Bill Clinton encouraged the IRS to audit them.

Many at the time believed the organization’s lawsuits were politically-motivated, but subsequent years proved Judicial Watch could be tough on both parties. During the Bush Adminstration, Judicial Watch joined with the Sierra Club in suing the administration to get access to minutes of Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force. The group also sued the Secret Service to get secret details of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s visits to the White House.

Earlier this year, the group sued the Justice Department over the mysterious death of 34-year old suburban mother, Miriam Carey, who was gunned down by Capitol Hill police officers and uniformed Secret Service agents in October 2013. Mrs. Carey, an African-American woman, was shot in the back while a barrage of bullets were fired into her car. The hail of gunfire somehow missed her infant daughter.

When the DOJ announced in the summer of 2014 it would not charge any of the law enforcement officers involved in the shooting–which was never explained to many people’s satisfaction–Judicial Watch sued to gain access to internal memos involving the incident.

If the current lawsuit against the Department of Justice is successful, it would not affect enforcement of the UIGEA in any direct way. The DOJ would have to turn over documents pertaining to the internal decisions behind the change in policy. Only if malfeasance or corruption was involved would the lawsuit have an effect on public policy.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on BestOnlineCasinos.com, USPokerSites.com, and LegalUSPokerSites.com

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