After a “waiting period” for objections passed without comment, the District of Columbia will become the first jurisdiction in the United States to offer intrastate online poker.
In a story from the Associated Press by Eric Tucker, District of Columbia Council Member Michael A. Brown lauded the new intrastate gaming law, which was a part of the District’s 2011 budget. The proposed budget had to fade a 30-day “waiting period” for objections from Congress, which expired last week. With no objections lodged, Brown, who authored the intrastate gaming provision in the District’s budget, stated that the District of Columbia will be moving forward to establish an online poker network by the end of 2011.
The DC Lottery Commission would oversee the established intrastate gaming network and determine what games to offer to its constituents. Preliminary organization has begun for this network, with the Italian company Intralot providing the software and transaction processing operations. Intralot, one of the top gaming organizations in the industry, is a publicly traded company on the Athens Stock Exchange.
Because it is an intrastate network, players would only be able to participate if they are located inside the borders of the District of Columbia. Washington television station WUSA spoke with Brown, who detailed what the framework of the network would look like.
“There would be what’s called hotspots,” Brown told WUSA. “You have to have your own laptop, and you will have a serial number that will identify you. You can be from anywhere in the country, but you have to do it within the borders of the District of Columbia,” Brown said. The hotspots would apparently be bars and hotels in the beginning.
The District of Columbia’s Chief Financial Officer and Councilman Brown estimate that the millions of dollars raised through taxation and regulation could help counteract some of DC’s budget shortfalls. It is estimated that the new intrastate network could bring in $14 million over three years.
“Anytime you’re cutting budgets, you want to save some programs,” the Associated Press quotes Brown as saying. “You’re looking for different pieces from different pots and you hope that you get to the number that restores those budget shortfalls and that’s what we’re trying to do with this.”
In his discussion with WUSA’s “9 News Now,” Brown cited, “It will enable folks to be able to participate online and play poker. They can do fantasy sports. It’s been going on in this city for the last couple of years, but now we can regulate it, and we can get fees on it, which means we can get revenue from it.”
Although the U.S. Government made it difficult to finance online gaming accounts with the passage of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), there has never been confirmation of whether online poker is legal in the United States. While some state that the 1961 Wire Act prohibits using the internet for gaming, many others disagree, saying that the antiquated law does not cover the internet.
Without a Federal stance on the subject, the current legal situation could present the opportunity for individual states and/or Indian reservations to operate an intrastate gaming network, which would pit players from the same area or state against each other. Several states, including California, Florida, New Jersey, Iowa, and Hawaii, have pursued the option of opening their own intrastate networks, but to this point, have not followed through on it.