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Washington DC Council Repeals Online Gambling Law

By: Fabian Rictor, Thursday February 9th 2012
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The online gambling saga in Washington DC is over at least for now. Earlier this week the city council voted to repeal the law allowing for regulation of online gambling. Ten members voted for the repeal and only two members voted against the repeal. The law was passed over a year ago, but its implementation was continuously stalled. Like New Jersey before it, Washington DC came within a hair's breadth of being the first jurisdiction in the United States to legalize online gambling, but neither was able to take the final step.

The bill's sponsor, Councilor Michael A. Brown, did his utmost to prevent the repeal of the bill. He was even prepared to submit a compromise bill. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who had also supported the bill, had stated that he would conditionally support a re-bid of the entire contract if the council does not repeal the bill. However neither of these could sway the councilors.

Councilor Jack Evans, who is also the chairman of the city's Revenue and Finance Committee, said that the matter did not end here. He warned that now there would be greater scrutiny of the lottery contract. Council member Tommy Wells, who had co-sponsored the repeal bill with Evans, said, "I certainly have a lot of questions about the process of selecting the partner in the lottery contract, and that's a conversation I will be having with Mr. Evans." In fact, political observers have stated that the real issue was not so much about the online gambling law but more about the controversial lottery contract worth around $38 million.

The concerns first arose in a report by D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby, who determined that the in the city's lottery contract with the Greek company Intralot, non-traditional games were later changed to Internet gambling without the knowledge of the councilors. The Inspector General also reported that Intralot's local partner, businessman Emmanuel S. Bailey, had misrepresented his firm's business activities during its bid for a stake in the lottery contract.

After the repeal vote, Councilor Brown pointed out that the public had responded favorably to online gambling at a series of community meetings held by the DC Lottery late last year. Therefore, the concerns they might have had about the lottery contract could have been addressed separately. Some councilors, who were in favor of online gambling but voted for the repeal of the law, opined that the process had been tainted and should be resumed from scratch.

Intralot spokesman Byron Boothe, commenting on the repeal vote, said, "Intralot is disappointed in the council vote today. We look forward to assisting the D.C. Lottery as they move forward in exploring their space in today's ever-changing gaming world."

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