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Attorney General Nessel Leads Coalition in Fight to Preserve Billions of Dollars for Schools

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, along with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, is leading a coalition of 26 attorneys general fighting to preserve billions of dollars for schools across the country. Nessel previously led a coalition of 16 states and the District of Columbia supporting New Hampshire's successful challenge in the First Circuit Court of Appeals to the Department of Justice's Jan. 14, 2019 opinion, which reversed its 2011 opinion that the Wire Act applied only to interstate wire communications of sports wagers.

In a letter sent today to Attorney General Merrick Garland, the coalition urges the DOJ to abandon its erroneous position and adopt the reading of the Wire Act set forth by the First Circuit in New Hampshire Lottery Commission, et. al. v. United States Department of Justice, et. al.-specifically that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting.

The Michigan Bureau of State Lottery and the nation's 46 other government-operated lotteries raised more than $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.

"Billions of dollars are generated through government-operated lotteries annually across this country for critical governmental services including schools, senior citizens programs, first responders, and infrastructure programs. This interpretation threatens this funding source," Nessel said. "I am joined by my colleagues today to urge the Department of Justice to adopt the reading of the Wire Act set forth by the First Circuit."

The letter notes that the First Circuit's interpretation of the Wire Act is both more consistent with the language of the statute as a whole and is more consistent with the history of the Wire Act and urges the DOJ to adopt its reasoning in lieu of its Jan. 14, 2019 opinion.  If not rescinded, the 2019 Opinion could leave states outside the First Circuit vulnerable to criminal prosecutions for Lottery games that bring in millions of dollars of revenue for essential state services.

A copy of the letter is available here.

Joining Attorneys General Nessel and Yost in sending the letter are the Attorneys General of Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.