City council members in Washington DC are making a significant push to legalize sports betting, and the possibility exists that online poker could come along for the ride.
Local lawmakers held a public hearing this week to gather feedback on a sports betting bill sponsored by Councilman Jack Evans, who has found plenty of support among DC politicians.
There was a certain sense of urgency surrounding the proceedings, as council wants to make sure it beats nearby states to the punch.
“Sports betting is going to happen across the country, I would imagine in over 40 states,” said Evans, according to WTOP News. “I want legalized sports betting in the District [of Columbia] ahead of Virginia and Maryland, before their legislatures convene in January.”
Nearby New Jersey and Delaware have already legalized sports betting, while Maryland and Virginia are considering putting new regulations in place for early 2019.
DC council wants to get ahead of the game to ensure potential revenues are staying in the city and not flowing out of state.
Injecting Online Poker
At least one supporter at this week’s hearings brought up the notion of including online poker in any new statutes considered in DC. Attorney Jeff Ifrah is the founder of the iDevelopment and Economic Association (iDEA), a group that advocates for “Growth through regulated online gaming.” He urged council members not to eschew things like online poker when mapping out new legislation.
“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 regarding his testimony.
Notably absent from the hearings was the Poker Alliance, a DC-based group that recently promised to double down in its efforts to advocate for online poker in the US.
We have yet to hear from council members on the topic of online poker specifically, but based on historical leanings, it’s possible it could see some support.
DC lawmakers passed legislation to legalize online poker in April of 2011, just one week before Black Friday changed the US online poker landscape forever. As a result, that legislation was repealed just a year later.
By including online poker in sports betting legislation, DC could theoretically join the shared player pool with Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada. With disappointing revenue figures so far, it’s a pool that could certainly use an infusion of new players.
Moving Forward with Sports
The DC sports betting bill as proposed would allow for all bet types, including single-game wagers, parlays and live betting. Bets could be placed in person, as well as online.
Legal sports betting in DC would include a 10 percent tax on revenues to go towards local arts and children’s education. Operators would need to pay a $50,000 licensing fee, and sports books like DraftKings and FanDuel have already expressed keen interest in getting up and running in DC as soon as possible.
Next up for the bill? It will be open to public comment until Nov. 1. After that, it needs to pass two council votes before getting the final nod of approval from DC mayor Muriel Bowser.