Jan. 15 (UPI) -- In a move that could potentially curb all forms of online gambling in the United States, the Justice Department reversed its stance late Monday on exactly what federal law covers and what it doesn't.
The Wire Act of 1961 outlines what gambling is illegal in the United States. The department's Office of Legal Counsel said in 2011 the law applied only to sports betting. The new 23-page judgment, reached in November and publicized Monday, says all forms of gambling are potentially subject to the law.
"Having been asked to reconsider, we now conclude that the statutory prohibitions are not uniformly limited to gambling on sporting events or contests," the opinion states.
The change allows the Justice Department to go after online gambling operations in several states -- including Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The new opinion was made a few months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year sports betting is legal nationwide for states that wish to make it so.
The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling had hired former Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln's lobbying firm to fight on its behalf to slow the spread of online gambling. The organization praised the Justice Department decision, saying it was a "win for parents, children and other vulnerable populations."
"Today's decision seamlessly aligns with the department's longstanding position that federal law prohibits all forms of internet gambling, as well as with Congress's intent when it gave law enforcement additional tools to shut down the activity through the overwhelmingly-passed Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006," Lincoln said in a statement late Monday.
Lincoln noted that online gambling is prevalent in Britain, and the results are questionable.
"[In Britain,] children's social media feeds are being 'bombarded' with online gambling ads and vulnerable problem gamblers are being baited back with aggressive promotional offers," he said.
David Briggs, chief executive of GeoComply, a company that ensures licensed Internet betting operators and customers are located within states where online gambling is legal, said it's unclear what impact the ruling might have on the industry.
Brigg emphasized, however, the opinion only affects gambling in states that have already legalized it.