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Congress May Resist Washington, D.C. online poker

9 December 2010 by admin

congressYesterday I reported that Washington, D.C. – the U.S. capitol – was planning to approve online poker and online sports betting within the district as a way of increasing revenue. Now there is word that, as expected, the bill could face stiff opposition from Congress.

A unique aspect of Washington, D.C. is that, unlike other jurisdictions, any laws they pass have to be approved by Congress. That means that the D.C. Council cannot pass a law that Congress opposes. All bills are sent to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives for 30 days, to be rejected, approved or ignored (which constitutes an approval).

StopNow there is word on the Beltway that Congress may indeed vote on a joint resolution to reject the bill. One warning sign that it may face resistance is that the man who many believe will be the chairman of the House subcommittee overseeing D.C. seems to oppose gambling. Another warning sign that it may face resistance is that, well, he said that he expects that “there will be a lot of resistance.”

Well, that can’t be good. The representative in question is Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who is currently the ranking Republican on the D.C. subcommittee. Since Republicans will control the House in January, that means they will also control each subcommittee. However, there is some speculation that he will turn down that job to chair either the Appropriations Committee or an Oversight and Government Reform panel.

Even if Chaffetz doesn’t take the D.C. subcommittee chairman position, his comments on the matter are not encouraging. He said that “Washington, D.C. should not be the Mecca for gambling. You don’t solve financial problems that way. I’m not sure how Congress will weigh in, but I will make sure my colleagues know about this, and I expect there will be a lot of resistance.”

Jason_Chaffetz390I normally find myself agreeing with Chaffetz, a fiscally conservative Republican. However, his opinion that allowing online poker in the District of Columbia would turn the nation’s capitol into a “gambling Mecca” seems absurd. Usually a conservative like Chaffetz wouldn’t want the government intruding on the legislation of another jurisdiction. However, due to D.C.’s unique status, their legislation is the federal government’s jurisdiction.

Washington, D.C. is facing a budget deficit of $188 million and needs all the revenue they can get. Councilman Mike Brown proposed the online poker regulation as a way to generate $13 million in three years. The online poker regulation was attached to a budget amendment by the D.C. Council, but if Brown wanted the gambling part of the bill to fly under the radar, it looks like that is no longer possible. With Chaffetz planning to bring it to the attention of his colleagues, a confrontation on the subject can be expected. The hope now is that more rational and less intrusive minds will prevail and Congress will allow the Council to pass the law.

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