With the fight for legal online poker beginning to pick up steam, the nation’s capital has passed legislation which will allow residents to engage in real money online games, including poker and fantasy sports. Included as part of a budget amendment, this bit of business injected language favorable to internet gaming into the government’s financial plan.
Since sneaking through by a vote of 11-2, however, local reception has been far from rosy.
“Washington, DC should not be the mecca for gambling,” says Jason Chaffetz of Utah, a ranking Republican on the area’s subcommittee.
“You don’t solve financial problems that way. I’m not sure how Congress will weigh in but I will make sure my colleagues know about this and I expect there will be a lot of resistance.”
Many of the objections of Chaffetz and his conservative contemporaries have arisen from the manner in which the legislation was introduced. The Washington Times has reported that Democratic City Council member Michael Brown added the pivotal language at the last possible moment, thereby avoiding extended discussion among the powers that be.
“There is no foundation that has been laid to gain any broad support,” states Chaffetz.
“It was slipped into a budget discussion in the middle of the night. That doesn’t strike me as a good way to do business.”
Rather than shrinking from the accusations, Brown has adamantly defended his actions. Legally, he has no legal obligation to provide public notice for budget amendments. He and his colleagues have, Brown claims, been working on this plan for several months.
“This is transforming the lottery, which is a game of chance, into a system that involves both games of skill and games of chance and that could run afoul of a number of Federal laws,” argues DC Attorney General Peter Nickles.
“I don’t think the City’s Chief Financial Officer has looked at it seriously. I’m not sure what they were thinking at all.”
Poker advocates should contain their enthusiasm here. Regardless of what the District of Columbia may dictate for their gaming market, the United States Congress will ultimately have final say in the matter. The Constitution allows them to overturn local laws if they are deemed to be outside of national policy. It’s a freedom they may very well exercise in the near future.