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Bad News for Washington DC Online Gambling Law

By: Mark Freedman, Tuesday June 7th 2011
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The online gambling bills passed by state legislatures in the United States appear to be jinxed. First the New Jersey bill was turned down by the governor. Now it is the turn of the Washington DC online gambling bill. When the bill was passed there was much celebration and hope that the law would be implemented by the year end. However, an editorial article in the Washington Post this week reveals the secrecy and machinations that were involved in the passing of the bill.

The amendment to allow the D.C. Lottery to offer online gambling in a limited manner in Washington DC was slipped into the supplemental budget enacted in December 2010. This was done at the initiative of independent councilor Michael A. Brown. Washington Post reports that the chief financial officer and the attorney general had both questioned the legality of this measure. The then mayor Adrian M. Fenty was not consulted. Despite that, there was no public hearing or public debate or committee review. No one gave any explanation for the bypassing of the "normal process of enacting legislation".

According to the Washington Post article an even more grave issue is that Brown did not disclose that he was employed by the legal firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge (EAPD) as a senior public policy adviser in the government relations department when he drafted the amendment. He was paid a salary of over $240,000 in 2010. The clients of EAPD include companies that provide gaming equipment, software and other services; casino owners; financers to those involved in online gambling activities. Washington Post specifically named GTech, whose subsidiary GTechG2 is an online gambling software provider. All these businesses would potentially benefit from legalized online gambling in Washington DC and even in other states that follow the same path in the future. EAPD was a sponsor of a recent conference in San Francisco that featured a session on online gambling. Mr. Brown was a speaker at that session, discussing political insights into legalization and regulation of online gambling.

EAPD has informed Washington Post that they maintain a strict boundary between their employees' work for the firm and their employees' outside activities. EAPD claimed that they were unaware in 2010 of Brown's intent to sponsor legislation legalizing online gaming in the District. Brown has since left EAPD and now is with the lobbying and consulting firm Madison Group, where he lobbies on behalf of clients in Congress and the White House. Brown has claimed that there was no conflict of interest because no company represented by EAPD was interested in doing business in Washington DC.

What the ramifications of these disclosures on the Washington DC online gambling act will be is not known. But it will definitely create more hurdles in the implementation of online gambling in the District.

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