Federal Wire Act

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Federal Wire Act
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titlesInterstate Anti-Crime Act
Long titleAn Act to amend chapter 50 of title 18, United States Code, with respect to the transmission of bets, wagers, and related information.
NicknamesInterstate Wire Act of 1961
Enacted bythe 87th United States Congress
EffectiveSeptember 13, 1961
Public law87-216
Statutes at Large75 Stat. 491
Titles amended18 U.S.C.: Crimes and Criminal Procedure
U.S.C. sections amended18 U.S.C. ch. 50 § 1081 et seq.
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate as S. 1656
  • Signed into law by President John F. Kennedy on September 13, 1961

The Interstate Wire Act of 1961, often called the Federal Wire Act, is a United States federal law prohibiting the operation of certain types of betting businesses in the United States. It begins with the text:

Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.[1]

In September 2011, the US Department of Justice released to the public a formal legal opinion on the scope of the Act concluding, "interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a 'sporting event or contest' fall outside the reach of the Wire Act."[2]

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Wire Act prohibition on the transmission of wagers applies only to sports betting and not other types of online gambling.[3] The Supreme Court has not ruled on the meaning of the Federal Wire Act as it pertains to online gambling.


It is quite evident that modern, organized, commercial gambling operations are so completely intertwined with the Nation's communications systems that denial of their use to the gambling fraternity would be a mortal blow to their operations

Robert F. Kennedy discussing how the Wire Act would affect organized crime[4]

After being selected to become US Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy suggested to the 87th United States Congress to pass legislation which would make interstate gambling illegal. Kennedy's goal of the legislation was to help the United States Justice Department stop organized crime from trafficking.[5] One of the eight bills given to Congress was Senate Bill 1656—The Wire Act.


The Interstate Anti-Crime Acts were signed by the 35th President of the United States John F. Kennedy on September 13, 1961.[6][7][8][9]


  1. ^ 18 U.S.C. § 1084
  2. ^ "Whether Proposals by Illinois and New York State to Use the Internet and Out-of-State Transaction Processors to Sell Lottery Tickets to In-State Adults Violate the Wire Act" (PDF). United States Department of Justice. September 20, 2011. p. 1. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  3. ^ "In RE:  Mastercard International Inc. Internet Gambling Litigation". FindLaw. November 20, 2002. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  4. ^ Schwartz (2010), p. 535
  5. ^ Schwartz (2010), p. 553
  6. ^ Schwartz (2010), p. 537
  7. ^ "Bill signings – S. 1653, S. 1656, S. 1657, Interstate Anti-Crime Acts, 11:00AM". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
  8. ^ "Interstate and Foreign Travel or Transportation in Aid of Racketeering Enterprises Act - P.L. 87-228" (PDF). 75 Stat. 498-2 ~ Senate Bill 1653. U.S. Government Printing Office.
  9. ^ "Interstate Transportation of Wagering Paraphernalia Act - P.L. 87-218" (PDF). 75 Stat. 492-2 ~ Senate Bill 1657. U.S. Government Printing Office.


  • Schwartz, David (September 2010). "Not Undertaking the Almost-Impossible Task: The 1961 Wire Act's Development, Initial Applications, and Ultimate Purpose". Gaming Law Review and Economics. 14 (7): 533–540. doi:10.1089/glre.2010.14708.

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