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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel Takes National Lead to Protect Lottery Revenue for Schools

LANSING – Sixteen states and the District of Columbia, have joined Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in fighting to preserve billions of dollars for schools across the country. The coalition filed a brief late Wednesday in support of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and two of its vendors, NeoPollard Interactive LLC and Pollard Banknote Limited. The brief was filed in New Hampshire Lottery Commission, et. al. v. United States Department of Justice, et. al., in the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals.

With more than $1 billion dollars in annual funding for Michigan schools at stake, Attorney General Nessel led the effort to file an amicus brief Wednesday asking the First Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the New Hampshire federal district court decision vacating the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) opinion that would encompass all types of bets and wagers in the federal Wire Act’s prohibitions.

The Michigan Bureau of State Lottery and the nation’s 46 other government-operated lotteries raised over $80 billion in gross revenues in 2017. In Michigan, the net proceeds of those monies provide critical support for public education, but the money is also used elsewhere for college scholarships, environmental protection, senior citizens, first responders and infrastructure projects, among other things.

“If the First Circuit reinstates the Department of Justice’s opinion, there would be drastic funding cuts to our public schools, and students who may need financial assistance to further their education would have fewer opportunities to do so,” Nessel said. “Aside from education, funding vital to emergency response and providing services to senior citizens, as well as protecting our natural resources, is at risk of being lost. The court must consider this loss and make a ruling to help the people, not an administration that has consistently made decisions without residents’ best interests in mind.”

The coalition opposes the DOJ’s Jan. 14, 2019 opinion, which reversed its 2011 opinion that the Wire Act applied only to interstate wire communications of sports wagers. The opinion reversal could threaten intrastate online lottery games and other games offered by Michigan and other states. The New Hampshire district court found that the DOJ’s opinion was legally incorrect, entered a declaratory judgment to that effect, and vacated it under the federal Administrative Procedures Act. The DOJ subsequently appealed.

Joining Michigan in filing the brief are Alaska, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The appeal is not yet scheduled for oral argument.