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Washington Holds Online Gambling Public Consultation

By: Adam Baker, Monday October 17th 2011
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In fulfillment of the directions of the Washington city council, DC Lottery has just completed the first of the eight public consultations. This was in Ward 5. As per a report in The Washington Times, the residents of this ward did not come out against online gambling, but did express displeasure at the manner the bill was passed. It was attached to a budget measure and driven through without adequate discussion by independent councilor Michael A. Brown.

The 90 minute public consultation meeting opened with DC Lottery executive director Buddy Roogow giving a slideshow presentation. The salient features of the present proposal were highlighted in the presentation. The online casino games offered will be accessible from inside the District of Columbia only. The initial offering will include blackjack, bingo, lottery scratch cards, and Texas Hold'em poker. The recreational and social gamblers interested will have to register a dedicated bank account from which they will be able to deposit a maximum of $250 a week. Individual player losses will be capped annually at $13,000. Players will have to use their own computers to wager and the online casino games will not be accessible over mobile networks.

Roogow explained that substantial software is being developed to ensure that the players are located within the District in accordance with the law requiring the city to establish a system that prevents outsiders from playing. Roogow assured the citizens that DC Lottery would offer help for problem gamblers. One objection raised by some citizens was that the proceedings of the online gambling initiative should not go into the city's general fund but should be earmarked for specific needs in the District such as education.

Meanwhile, in the state of Massachusetts Republican Representative Dan Winslow's amendment seeking to legalize some forms of intra state online gambling has run into a road block. It may be recalled that Winslow had an amendment attached to the bill permitting land casinos for exploring the possibilities of online gambling as well. The bill with the amendment was passed by the House last month. However the Massachusetts Senate passed the bill 24 to 14 this week, but without the online gambling amendment.

The standard procedure requires that if there are differences in bills ultimately passed by the House and the Senate, they be rationalized by a conference committee representing both legislative bodies. This committee tries to cover the requirements of both and tries to smooth out any remaining anomalies. Despite Winslow's claim that intra state online gambling could provide a significant revenue source, create high tech jobs in the software and regulatory arenas and cater to a definite demand for online gambling in Massachusetts, the expert opinion is that the committee will not address the online gambling amendment.

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