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Washington • The District of Columbia is becoming the first U.S. jurisdiction to allow Internet gambling, moving ahead of traditional gaming meccas such as New Jersey and Nevada in a bid to bring in millions of dollars in extra revenue.
Permitting the online games was part of the 2011 budget and a 30-day period for Congress to object expired last week, said D.C. Councilman Michael Brown, who authored the provision. The gaming would be operated by Intralot, a Greece-based company, and would be available only to gamblers making bets within the borders of the district.
Officials were not sure when the gaming would begin. Though other states have contemplated legalizing online poker, experts said the district would be the first jurisdiction in the country to do it.
The move to legalize the games comes despite a 2006 federal law that effectively banned Internet gambling. It made it illegal in the state where the transaction takes place by prohibiting banks and credit card companies from making payments to gambling websites. But gambling experts say the law created gray areas that open the door for an expansion into the multibillion-dollar industry.
D.C. hopes to tap those millions to help offset budget cuts and help social services programs, Brown said. Conservative estimates from D.C.'s chief financial officer indicate the district could bring in around $14 million through fiscal year 2014, he said.
The gambling green light is no doubt good news to poker players, but D.C. would be authorized to offer other games of both skill and chance. It would be up to lottery officials to come up with regulations and decide which games to permit.