Amid Pa. gambling expansion, questions arise about federal laws

Pennsylvania is working to roll out online gambling, which will be licensed through existing casinos. (Wayne Parry/AP)

Pennsylvania is working to roll out online gambling, which will be licensed through existing casinos. (Wayne Parry/AP)

Pennsylvania is in the middle of rolling out a slate of gambling expansions, including online gaming.

In general, things have been going smoothly.

But a change in the interpretation of the federal Wire Act could cause headaches for casino operators.

The Wire Act governs remote gambling around the country.

It has been reinterpreted a number of times. Until recently, it was broadly understood to ban gambling across state lines when it came to sports bets, but not other online bets like poker or casino games.

However, a recent ruling from the Department of Justice has called into question whether non-sports bets can operate over state lines.

The Commonwealth had been setting up new online gambling infrastructure under the assumption that certain things, like financial transactions, could happen in other states.

It’s possible the DOJ’s ruling could affect Pennsylvania, but officials aren’t sure exactly how.

In the meantime though, the state Gaming Control Board has urged all casino operators to comply with the new interpretation and to send updated plans to the board.

Pennsylvania casinos have been launching on-site sports betting over the last few months. Online gambling options are expected to be released soon.

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