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DC Gambling Legislation Further Delayed

After becoming the first jurisdiction in the United States to legalise and regulate online poker in early April, the District of Columbia has further delayed plans to roll out games. According to The Washington Times, council members Jack Evans, Tommy Wells and Muriel Bowser have called for an investigation into “anomalies” in the process that lead to Intralot winning the DC Lottery contract in 2009. The three want to know why Veteran Services Corp, Intralot’s local partner, was given a 51% stake in the lottery contract, despite taking no part in the official bidding process. Evans, Wells and Bowser feel that Inspector General Charles Willoughby has not thoroughly investigated the irregularities in the lottery contract and the oversight of Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi.

Evans, who is Chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, has not adopted a position for or against online gambling, but said that legislation “should have been introduced as a free-standing bill; then we would have had the necessary hearings. Since that’s not what happened, we’re trying to play catch-up by holding hearings after the fact.” Evans is referring to council member Michael Brown’s legislation that was snuck into a supplementary budget bill passed by the City Council without any public discussion. Wells is taking a stronger stance, and has vowed to introduce a bill to repeal Brown’s legislation after the council returns from its summer recess.

In addition to the call to investigate the $38-million contract, there will be a chance for public comment on the proposed legislation, though this too has been delayed. According to reports, residents do not want public forums to be held during the summer. Meetings were scheduled for the end of August and the beginning of September to discuss the merits of having local businesses become hot spots for online gambling. However, the meetings will likely start in mid-September and could now run into October, though no dates have been officially announced.  

Despite all this, Intralot is powering ahead. The Greek gaming giant has been advertising for personnel to help run According to Intralot, the company is not just focusing on setting up shop in DC but also in three unnamed states. Intralot’s website cites lottery deals with nine US states: Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina and Vermont.

The prospect of committee hearings and contract irregularities sent council members into hiding. None of the above responded to requests for comment.

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