There’s an old English proverb that goes ‘softly, softly, catchee monkey’. Apparently it was coined by a boy scout whose intention was to convey the importance of exercising patience in order to gain the day. In other words, take it slow, be patient and things will happen soon enough when they’re ready.

The quaint colloquialism sprang instantly to mind after listening in to Clarion’s recent webinar on the almost as quaint WIRE Act. I say almost as quaint, because the Act is nearly 60-years-old. This ‘ducking stool’ point of law is perhaps about as relevant to today’s technology-driven world as lettuce at a butchery convention!

Quaint it may be, but the Act is currently causing a great deal of debate and consternation. Listening to the erudite views and opinions expressed during the webinar (from people far smarter than me when it comes to the legal stuff), you could almost imagine a Mexican wave of head scratching taking place as they attempted to place the Act into real world, modern day context. Fair play to them for trying!

My understanding of the WIRE Act is pretty basic and I err on the side of caution, which isn’t altogether a bad thing when it comes to points of law that could lead to a spell in chokey (another old English term for prison!) for those who transgress.

So here goes. There have been some interpretations of the Act, post-PASPA, suggesting that if a state adopts legal sports betting it is breaking no state law by offering interstate sports betting online. Proponents of this theory are essentially re-interpreting the rules to argue that if state law remains intact there’s no case to be answered. And when you break it down to that simplistic level it all sounds rather encouraging. What could possibly go wrong?

But having done a fair amount of reading on this, the worrying thing for me is that I can’t find reference to how state law interacts with the WIRE Act at all, certainly not in a direct sense. How the courts would view that absence of a link I’m not entirely sure. But taking the law in its baldest appearance, it would require a huge leap of faith to arrive at a conclusion where interstate sports betting is given a green light without at least some form of legal challenge.

Hence the boy scout proverb calling for patience in order to gain the day. Take it slow, allow the debate to take shape and encourage an environment in which the industry and policy makers can agree on a solution to the outmoded strictures of the WIRE Act.

The alternative, of course, would be to instigate a test case. Far be it from us to recommend such a bold and peremptory strategy, it’s safe to say that this could only be driven by an organisation with pockets as deep as grief and balls of titanium.

SBC Americas will continue to observe the situation as it unfolds, and in the meantime if there’s anyone who can add more light than heat to proceedings, drop me a line at [email protected]