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Michigan Attorney General part of national effort to protect state lottery revenue

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is asking a federal court to reject a recent opinion by the U.S. Department of Justice that says online state lotteries are illegal under a federal law called the Wire Act.

Michigan filed anamicus brief this week opposing the Justice Department's new legal opinion that reverses its earlier 2011 position that the Wire Act applies only to interstate wire communications in sports betting.

Michigan was joined in the amicus brief by 11 other states and the District of Columbia. They argue the Wire Act makes only sports-related interstate gambling illegal.

The brief asks the federal court to declare that the Wire Act "does not apply to the non-sports activities of government-conducted lotteries," and seeks a permanent injunction against the Justice Department from acting to enforce its new opinion.

"Attorney General Nessel is pursuing this effort to protect revenue for Michigan schools and Michigan students," said Kelly Rossman-McKinney, director of communications for Nessel.

Rossman-McKinney says the Michigan Lottery generates more than $900 million a year to fund Michigan schools, and that revenue would be at risk if the Justice Department's new interpreation were upheld by the court.

"If the Justice Department were to prevail, it would put Michigan's Lottery and schools in an untenable position. And that is either to forgo the revenue that the lottery generates for schools or to break federal law. Those would be the only two choices," said Rossman-McKinney. "What the individual states, including Michigan, would continue to do to pursue protecting the lottery would be speculative at this point.

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