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D.C-sponsored online gambling will begin late this summer, which is intended to boost city coffers. The measure also raises questions over whether the poor will end up losing money through state-sponsored gambling.
Other forms of state-sponsored gambling have drawn ire from those who feel they unfairly target poor people, as was the case in Maryland and its debate over slot machines. The lottery is described by some as a tax on the poor since low-income earners typically spend more of their income on lottery tickets than people in the middle and upper classes.
WAMU’s Patrick Madden reports that D.C. Lottery officials believe online gamblers will have above-average incomes; the intention is to target tourists and amateurs. Gaming would be restricted to $250 stakes, a pot that isn’t appealing to professional poker players. Councilman Jack Evans (Ward 2) said online gaming would make it easier for people to lose their money; the city’s chief financial officer responded that the demographic concerns over who would lose money in online gambling are the same concerns over who loses money in playing the lottery.
There are some stipulations that could prevent people from getting in over their heads. Gamblers wouldn’t be able to use credit cards, only debit cards. Gambling would be restricted to those who are at least 19 years old and physically located in the District through laptops connected to “hot spots.” The exact locations of those hot spots, though, haven’t been determined yet.