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Washington DC to Offer Online Gambling

By: Adam Richards, Thursday April 14th 2011
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Last week, as if by default, Washington DC became the first jurisdiction in the United States to legalize online gambling. In January Washington Mayor Vincent C. Gray had signed the law approving the 2011 budget, which provided for generating revenues through online gambling. The period for Congress to object to the plan expired last week. Now, Buddy Roogow, executive director of the D.C. Lottery, has outlined the plans for implementing online gambling. The online gambling would be under D.C. Lottery, which has signed a 50-50 revenue-sharing agreement with Intralot USA for developing and managing the online gambling web site.

To start with a free to play online gambling web site is scheduled to go live by about July 1. By September 1 residents of Washington DC would be able to play for real money at a number of "hot spots". There could be up to 30 such hot spots in the jurisdiction. The city Convention Center is an ideal location for one of the hot spots. Other likely hot spots according to Roogow are hotels, bars and clubs. Players would need to bring their own computers to place bets at the hot spots. The online gambling product verticals will include casino games, poker games and betting on fantasy sports.

There is one major hurdle to be overcome before online gambling can reach players' homes. The administrators have to be sure that the available technology will restrict the online gambling to the geographic limits of Washington DC. This is expected to be in place by the end of 2011. Then adults in Washington DC would be able to enter in their payment details on their home laptops or computers in order to wager on their favorite online casino game, be it roulette or blackjack or slot machines.

In an interview to the Washington Post, Mayor Gray said that many Washington DC residents are currently engaged in online gambling, with the proceeds going to off-shore companies. The objective of this exercise is to offer regulated online gambling and ensure that the District receives its fair share of the financial benefits produced by online gaming. He said that the estimates showed a revenue generation of $13.1 million between the 2012 and 2014 fiscal years.

There is a cautionary note to this otherwise celebratory event. Frederick Hill, spokesman for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said, "If the committee has a concern that a practice is either illegal or not in the interests of the federal taxpayers who support the District of Columbia, the committee could certainly raise a concern." He added, however, that no such issues were on the table for the present.

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