Plans for Intrastate Online Poker in Washington, D.C.



Plans for intrastate online poker in Washington, D.C., are progressing as scheduled in the aftermath of Black Friday. Council member Michael A. Brown, who pushed for the amendment that made the District of Columbia the first U.S. jurisdiction to enact a law that allows online poker, isn’t worried about the increased controversy the DOJ indictments brought to the game. In fact, he sees Black Friday as a development that potentially will benefit D.C. poker.

When the law was approved early last April, it was more of a historic moment on paper than one that would ever draw the interest of poker players who could play on PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker. Now that those sites are unavailable in the country, D.C.’s intrastate poker may be the only way for people to play online poker in the U.S. over the next couple of years and know their money is safe.

"It should have a positive effect for us because now those people who did play those games can come to D.C. and have consumer protections and regulation," Brown said in a phone interview. "I think a lot of folks who play poker as a full-time job will probably consider moving to the District."

Brown indicated that play-money games will go online at commercial locations called platinum sponsors by the end of July, and that real-money games would follow at these platinum sponsors and potentially be available in people’s homes by the end of this year.

Brown said he has not heard any objections to moving forward on offering online poker within the District of Columbia from the Justice Department or anyone on Capitol Hill. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act has a specific exemption for intrastate gaming.

The D.C. Internet poker network would be run by Intralot, a Greek company that supplies integrated gaming and transaction processing systems, through the D.C. lottery. Certainly the sudden lack of online playing options in the U.S. could help D.C. overcome expected liquidity issues involved with offering the game in a small area that has few residents though many commuters and tourists. The District of Columbia itself has a population of about 600,000, but the surrounding Maryland-Virginia metropolitan area has more than 8.5 million residents — the fourth-largest combined statistical area in the country.

Brown said his interest in establishing online poker within D.C. began in 2009, when he read in news periodicals about other states that were looking into the possibilities of online gambling. He decided it was a good way to help with D.C.’s budget shortfalls.

"We were doing everything to think out of the box on ways to get revenue while not giving cuts to people who need the government to survive," said Brown, who noted that he has played poker a couple of times but is not a regular poker player. "I think a lot of cuts usually come through social services programs, usually the less fortunate of our communities. After a year-and-a-half of research, we decided online gambling made a lot of sense and moved on it."

Brown said that poker will be the only online game to start but that, if the poker goes well, the plan is to add bingo and blackjack in the future.

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