WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia is becoming the first US jurisdiction to allow Internet gambling, in a bid to bring in millions of dollars in new revenue.
Permitting the online games was part of the 2011 budget, and a 30-day period for Congress to object expired last week, said Councilman Michael A. Brown, who authored the provision. The gambling would be operated by Intralot, a firm based in Greece, and would be available only to those making bets within the borders of the district.
Officials were not sure when the gambling would begin. Though other states have contemplated legalizing online poker, specialists said the district would be the first jurisdiction in the country to do it.
The district moved to legalize such gambling despite a 2006 federal law that effectively banned Internet gambling. That law 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 specialists say the law created gray areas that open the door for expansion.
The district hopes the gambling revenue will help offset budget cuts and fund social services programs, Brown said. Conservative estimates from the district’s chief financial officer indicate that the district could bring in $13 million to $14 million through fiscal 2014, he said.
Besides poker, the district 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.
Jeff Ifrah, a lawyer who represents online poker companies, said he was skeptical of any revenue estimates, because they assume that online poker players will migrate from their favorite site to a new one.