Judicial Watch Files Lawsuit Seeking Records on Justice Department Decision to “Legalize” Internet Gambling
AUGUST 19, 2015
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking documents regarding the Department of Justice’s 2011 ruling that the Wire Act of 1961 and other laws prohibiting online gambling, such as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, only prohibit wagers on sporting events or contests (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (1:15-cv-01132)).
Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request October 27, 2014, seeking:
Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the December 23, 2011 ruling to legalize non-sports betting over the internet, including but not limited to any records on the legal basis for the ruling under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.
The Justice Department was required to provide a response to Judicial Watch by February 18, 2015, but failed to do so.
Judicial Watch alleges in its complaint that:
As of the date of this complaint, July 15, the Justice Department has failed to determine whether to comply with the FOIA request; notify Judicial Watch of any such determination; advise Judicial Watch of the right to appeal any adverse determination; produce the requested records or otherwise demonstrate that the requested records are exempt from production.
Judicial Watch previously reported on the Justice Department’s online gambling flip-flop. In 2011, two days before Christmas, Eric Holder’s Justice Department changed decades of policy and quietly reinterpreted key parts of the Wire Act at the request of two states—Illinois and New York—seeking to sell lottery tickets online. In its legal opinion, the Justice Department found that the Wire Act only prohibited wagers on sporting events or contests, lifting a long-standing federal ban on Internet bets placed on non-sporting events. Judicial Watch reported that:
In fact, up until recently the (Justice Department) went after offshore-based online poker companies operating in the U.S. The feds slammed them with serious criminal charges like wire fraud, money laundering and bank fraud. The agency’s cases were strengthened thanks to a 2006 measure Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed by Congress to go after online gambling firms in the U.S. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which operates under the DOJ, even issued a warning reminding that it’s illegal to gamble online in the United States. That means no cyber bets on sporting events or in virtual card games; no transferring money electronically for gambling and no wagers in offshore internet casinos if you live in the U.S., according to the FBI bulletin.
Following this reversal, the Government Accountability Institute discovered close ties between Holder and businesses that raked in profits as a result of his Justice Department’s reversal.
“The executive action ‘legalizing’ online gambling is another example of the Obama administration’s habit of placing politics above law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “When the Justice Department reverses its own interpretation of a federal statute so quickly and so completely, the American people have a right to know why. And given that the Justice Department is willing to violate federal records law rather than disclose information, Americans can presume corruption behind its decision to unilaterally legalize widespread Internet gambling.”