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Washington Moves Ahead on Online Gambling

By: Adam Baker, Wednesday June 22nd 2011
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During the last few weeks some concerns have been raised over the initiative of the Washington DC council to introduce a regime of regulated online gambling in the District. One concern is about the conflict of interest of independent councilor Michael A. Brown who at time was employed by a legal firm with online gambling interests. The other concern is about the studied silence that the Congress has maintained on this issue. But despite these concerns the online gambling implementing agency DC Lottery is proceeding with the plans according to a report in the Washington Times.

The report says that six online casino games will be launched in the initial offering. These include blackjack, Texas Hold'em and bingo. At first the games will be released in the demonstration mode and will allow players to get acquainted with the games for free, employing a point system in lieu of wagers. This will also give an opportunity to the officials to iron out any bugs in the system. The real money games will follow in four to six weeks. The online casino games will be played at public terminals known as platinum sponsors. Players will have to be 19 or older and will have to log on from within the District's borders. The usual online gambling industry prohibitions on creating more than one online account and letting others use their account will apply.

Speaking to the Washington Times, Brown said that it was important to get the technology right. For example, the system must prevent players from outside Washington DC from logging in. He argued that legalized and regulated online gambling will bring millions of dollars in revenue to the District. The later additions will include online poker, electronic instant tickets random-number games and Victory at Sea, a game similar to Battleship.

Meanwhile Council member Jack Evans, chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, has scheduled a hearing on D.C. Lottery's online plans for June 29. This meeting is essential because the online gambling measure was added to the budget bill late last year without public vetting. Therefore, the testimony of the District's chief financial officer, attorney general and others on how online gambling will work and why no one else in the country has done it needs to be heard.

The meeting will also take up the issue of the alleged conflict of interest of Brown. Brown played a key role in getting online gambling approved in Washington DC. He was at that time employed by a legal firm that had on its clients' list companies having interest in the online gambling industry. This has been called questionable and hence a full enquiry into the issue is required.

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