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Washington D.C. slips online poker legislation into state lottery bill

Taking most industry observers by surprise this week is news of an attempt to legalise online poker at the state level in Washington DC. Whilst Senator Harry Reid promotes his federal proposal to legalise online gambling, the Washington Times broke the news that the D.C. Council on Tuesday took a first step toward legalising online poker and fantasy sports gambling through the city lottery by incorporating the proposal into a massive bill aimed at plugging a $200 million budget gap.

With little notice or consultation, the council, by an 11-2 vote, passed an amendment empowering the D.C. Lottery to include both "games of skill and games of chance" in its offering. The amendment was authored by Democrat Michael A. Brown, and seeks to establish a private computer network run by the D.C. Lottery that would allow customers to play poker online as long as they were playing in the District.

In justifying the move, Brown notes: "...there are at least 12 states contemplating legislation similar to this amendment." He specified California and New Jersey, along with New York and Illinois.

"Online poker is currently played by D.C. residents and offered by vendors outside the United States," he added, claiming that his proposal would raise more than $13.5 million by the end of 2014.

However, the newspaper notes that although the amendment was approved by the city's legislative general counsel Brian K. Flowers, it by-passed a review by D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles, who now claims that there are complex federal statutes that need to be to be analysed before he would be prepared to give a view. There is also the possibility that Congress may seek to block the DC move.

Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray voted to approve the budget amendment.

Asked by The Washington Times whether he anticipated resistance from Congress, Brown replied: "Obviously Congress can do a variety of things with anything we pass, but we can't stop from being innovative just because they legislate what we do."

D.C. Lottery revenues have declined by more than $36 million since 2006.

It is not at present clear how the D.C. Lottery would implement the new games should the amendment survive.

In a statement to the newspaper, Brown asserted: "This specific area of law is a bit unsettled. However there is nothing in current local or federal law that prohibits this type of gaming and the U.S. Department of Justice has made no effort to curtail procurements in other states."

Source: InfoPowa News

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