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District of Columbia Considers Online Poker

8 December 2010 by admin

dc-council_buildingThe tail end of 2010 has seen a lot of talk about legalizing and regulating online gambling in the United States. New Jersey is on their way to creating an intrastate online gambling industry and California may not be far behind. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to attach federal online gambling regulation to a must-pass bill during the lame duck session. Now there is news that Washington, D.C. may jump on the bandwagon.

The Washington Examiner has reported that Councilmember Michael A. Brown will introduce a bill that would allow the D.C. Lottery to manage an online poker industry within the district. In addition, the bill would allow sports betting within the district’s boundaries.

Brown says that if his bill passes it would generate $13 million for the district over three years. Washington, D.C. is facing a $188 million budget deficit and additional revenue is needed. Since the federal government in large part is opposed to online gambling – with the Justice Department even abusing the power given to them by the UIGEA – it is interesting that they are now getting opposition in their own backyard.

councilman-brown-681x1024There is one major hurdle for Brown’s online poker bill, though. To become law, it has to go through Congress. Other local governments operate independently of the federal government and do not require federal oversight or cooperation if the law does not involve interstate commerce. However, the District of Columbia is different. The nation’s capitol is not officially part of any state, city or county. It is a federal body with special status. One distinct aspect of Washington, D.C.’s legislative process is that bills passed by the D.C. Council must be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate before they become law. Congress then has 30 days to review the bill and make a decision. If they vote to enact a joint resolution disapproving of the Council’s bill, D.C.’s Council cannot sign it into law. If Congress either approves the bill or does not act during the 30-day period, the Council then signs it into law and it becomes binding for residents of the district.

It is unlikely that the D.C. Council will pass Brown’s bill – if they do pass it – before the end of the congressional term. That means next year they would have to send it to the new Congress, who may not be as open to the idea as the current Congress. However, with a number of Libertarian-leaning Republicans earning seats in Congress, they might choose not to interfere with the Council’s law, even if they disagree with it.

Over the last five years, revenue by the D.C. Lottery has dropped 10% and Brown is seeking a way for them to compete with online gambling websites that Washington residents are already using. The Lottery would be tasked with deciding which games to offer and regulating them to ensure underage people and problem gamblers don’t play.

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