Court Upholds N.H. Lottery's Online Ticket Sales, Rejects Federal Challenge | New Hampshire Public Radio

Court Upholds N.H. Lottery's Online Ticket Sales, Rejects Federal Challenge

Jan 21, 2021

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit is upholding a lower court ruling that the New Hampshire Lottery Commission can continue to sell lottery tickets online, despite a challenge by the Trump Administration.

The case centers on an opinion released by the Department of Justice in 2018 that found online lottery ticket sales violated the Wire Act, which was signed into law in 1961. The Office of Legal Counsel’s decision was a reversal of its own 2011 memo that cleared the way for online lottery sales.

New Hampshire, which launched online lottery sales based on the 2011 guidelines, filed a legal challenge to the federal government in federal court. NeoPollard Interactive, which the N.H. Lottery Commission contracts to provide online lottery gaming, also joined the suit.

The First Circuit’s opinion, released Wednesday, agreed with a federal district court judge that “the Wire Act's prohibitions are limited to bets or wagers on sporting events or contests,” and don’t apply to games of chance. 

It isn’t clear if the Justice Department under the new Biden Administration will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers for the state argued that if the courts upheld the federal government's new interpretation of the Wire Act, it could throw popular games such as MegaMillions and PowerBall into question, as those lottery games rely on cross-border communications between states. 

New Hampshire’s iLottery platform is expected to generate approximately $6-8 million in profits this fiscal year.