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Battle Lines Drawn in Washington DC Online Gambling Bill

By: Ryan Alders, Sunday September 25th 2011
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The battle lines have been drawn over the much in news online gambling bill of Washington DC. Though the actual fight will take place only after the public consultations are completed, but both sides are using this period to sharpen their weapons. In this consultative phase public meetings will be conducted by the DC Lottery in all eight wards of the city in which the mechanics and the other details of the online gambling scheme will be explained. DC Lottery is the nominated implementing agency for the online gambling proposal.

Meanwhile the Washington Times has conducted an online poll on whether online poker should be legalized. 85% of respondents approved of the legalization of online poker, whereas only 14% of respondents gave a negative vote. 1% of the respondents were undecided. 35 respondents have also voiced their opinions. One of them said, "Poker is a game of skill, plain and simple. Here in the "land of the free" we are not allowed to play, but yet so much of the rest of the world has already legalized it."

Whether the response to the public consultations confirms with the poll results or not will be known when the report is made to the council's Committee on Finance and Revenue. Jack Evans, the chairman of the committee and the chief opponent of the online gambling legislation, will then consider the issue in detail in a further hearing. Evans will also take inputs from the D.C. inspector general about how the council awarded the underlying lottery contract about two years ago.

However, two Democrat councilors Tommy Wells and Phil Mendelson have not waited for the consultations to be completed. They have already introduced a bill to repeal the part of the law that authorizes online gambling. Council member David A. Catania has indicated that he would co-sponsor the bill. Wells said that his bill would allow a transparent debate on the pros and cons of online gambling and whether it makes sense for Washington DC to go ahead with this proposal. He pointed out that there was no such discussion last year when the bill was passed.

Michael A. Brown, the independent councilor who drove the online gambling bill as part of a supplementary budget bill, continues to defend his position. He has written a letter to fellow councilors stating that the opposition, though apparently vociferous, does not have the numbers. He reiterates that the law is a win-win way to generate revenue for the District while regulating a very popular pastime that in any event goes on illegally on offshore websites.

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