Washington D.C.’s Sports Betting Push Could Lead to Online Poker Regulation

October 19th, 2018 | by Brian Corlisse

Online poker could find its way into the Washington D.C. if ongoing discussions around sports betting prove productive.

Jeff Ifrah

Attorney Jeff Ifrah is among the voices calling for online poker to become part of Washington D.C.’s sports betting discussion. (Image: Jeff Ifrah/Pinterest)

Following a public hearing between city council members and lawmakers, local news outlet WTOP has reported on a “sense of urgency” surrounding a move to “legalize sports betting.” Covering the talk, reporter John Aaron noted an “optimism” that some regulation could be introduced sooner rather than later.

D.C. Not Stalling on Sports Betting

Commenting on the proposals, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans said that a cluster is forming around the state and a failure to act would leave Washington D.C. at a competitive disadvantage. Echoing these sentiments, fellow Councilmembers Robert White said that it’s in the state’s interest to implement new laws.

“It’s either going to happen here in D.C. or it’s going to happen in a place drivable from D.C., and if folks are going to spend their money, I would rather them spend it here,” White told local media outlets.

Pressing the issue in light of recent comments, a representative for FanDuel said that an estimated 130,000 D.C. residents already wager $319 million per year using offshore online betting sites.

Although the latest figures show D.C. has a $287 million financial surplus, any extra income is always welcome. Indeed, prior to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) being overturned,  analysts at Barclays estimated US sports betting would be worth $22 billion per annum.

With New Jersey already proving the industry can be profitable, state officials in D.C. are now looking to claim their piece of the pie.

Online Poker Push Continues

As well as discussing the benefits of sports betting, online poker was mentioned during the hearing. Broaching the topic, attorney Jeff Ifrah provided a written testimony urging council members to consider the links between sports and other forms of betting.

“Internet and mobile gaming, including poker and casino games, are great opportunities for DC to expand the size of the betting pool and add additional revenue,” Ifrah wrote in a statement.

Of all the US states, Washington D.C. has historically had a liberal attitude towards online poker. In 2011, just before the events of Black Friday, officials passed an amendment known as the Lottery Modernization Act of 2010.

As part of the bill, the term lottery was redefined to permit games of chance, including poker. However, before the new law could take effect, the Department of Justice (DOJ) shutdown PokerStars, Full Tilt and UltimateBet.

The end result was the death of D.C.’s online poker efforts and, moreover, a temporary halt to online poker in the US as a whole.

However, with the tide turning and poker’s natural association with sports betting, the latest political chatter could prove positive for the gaming industry at large.


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