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Fresh Hearing for Washington Online Gambling

By: Joe Valentino, Wednesday September 7th 2011
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Jack Evans, the Democrat chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue has called for another hearing in the matter of intrastate online gambling in Washington DC. This time two issues related to online gambling have become intertwined making the proceedings even murkier. One is the Internet gambling legislation and the other is the D.C. Lottery contract. The fresh hearing is being held at the instance of three Washington DC councilors who want to re-examine both issues.

Reports appearing in the press stated that the Washington D.C. Inspector General, Charles J. Willoughby, had failed to act on a request from two former Cabinet officials to investigate irregularities in the lottery contract and the oversight activities of Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi. Evans said that the Inspector General should have carried out the investigation, and because he failed to do so some of the councilors are concerned about the integrity of the deal. This is the reason for holding another hearing when the council reconvenes in September.

Evans has the support of council member Muriel Bowser, a Democrat who chairs the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment. Bowser's committee has oversight of the Office of the Inspector General, and Bowser also serves on Evans' finance committee. She also voiced the opinion that several councilors, including herself, were uncomfortable with the DC Lottery contract when it was finalized. The matter has been compounded by the Inspector General's failure to act and it is legitimate to ask why he has not done so. The people are concerned that the District's systems of checks and balances are not functioning effectively. The public needs to have confidence in those responsible for enforcing regulations, rules and ethics. Bowser was equally critical of the online gambling bill. She said, "It was not responsible to pass it in a supplemental budget bill without public conversation. It definitely was a sleight of hand."

The Washington Times broke the news how the Greek firm Intralot was given the lottery contract. Intralot needed a local partner in order to be eligible. Therefore Intralot tied up with a designated local businessman who never participated in the competitive bidding process and who owns 51% in the $38 million lottery contract. The online gambling bill was moved through by a councilor who was in the employment of a legal firm that has clients who will benefit when the law is implemented. Currently the implementation of the law is on the back burner following demands that a public consultative process take place. This process is likely to start now after the summer vacations in August. Meanwhile, Another Democrat, Councilor Tommy Wells, has pledged to introduce legislation to repeal the online gambling legalization bill.

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