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D.C. gambling meetings set for August

Congress is out of session and much of Washington is out of town. But D.C. Lottery officials indicate that it's the perfect time to seek public input on controversial new internet gambling laws that could change the face of communities.

The U.S. branch of Intralot, the Athens-based gaming supplier, was awarded a five-year contract late last year by a vote of the D.C. Council near the close of the session under then-Chairman Vincent Gray. The contract includes a state-of-the-art central gambling system for D.C. along with "back-end controls and over 625 terminals," according to the company's website.

But affected communities seem to be largely unaware of the details. Asked by The Georgetown Dish, most community leaders said they did not know the specifics of the new gambling plan for D.C. and wanted more information. So D.C. Lottery officials recently set up a rash meetings in August.

"Suddenly I saw that these meetings were scheduled," said Southwest ANC Andy Litsky. "I thought, 'are you kidding?'" For all ANC Commissioners, the meeting is set for August 16 from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at D.C. Lottery headquarters at 2101 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., SE in Anacostia, according to the D.C. Lottery iGaming website. Meetings in several of Washington's eight wards occur in the following days, including Ward Two Aug. 22 at Shaw Library at 6:30 p.m. (1630 Seventh St. NW) and Ward Three Aug. 30 at Cleveland Park Library 6:30 to 8:30 pm (3310 Connecticut Ave. NW).

Commissioner Litsky says he never got an invitation, nor did several ANC chairs he knows. The Georgetown ANC takes a break at this time of year, as do many in the city.

"Holding these meetings in August does not elicit the input we need," said Councilmember Jack Evans. "I don't know why they are doing this in the middle of August."

Litsky says the D.C. Council needs to test internet gambling in public hearings. "If the Council really want to be accountable on this issue, the [gambling] law should be repealed. It should be brought up on its own merits, debated, and people should be counted," he said. "This is outrageous."

Until that happens, Litsky, a veteran ANC Commissioner whose district was once part of Ward Two, is encouraging other ANCs and community groups to adopt the following resolution:

Resolution Regarding Internet Gambling in the District of Columbia

Whereas the online/Internet gambling/iGaming including computerized slots legislation was inserted into the December 2010 budget without public discussion or public hearings, contrary to the principles of open and transparent government; andWhereas the potential negative economic impacts associated with bringing online gambling supported and operated by the District of Columbia Government everyday until 4AM may include increased police protection, alcohol beverage control, zoning and fire safety enforcement, specialized protection against hacking of the DC Government website and its gambling site, and increased addiction treatment vastly outweigh the projected annual financial benefits to the District that might be realized by its implementation.

Now, therefore let it be resolved that (ANC Commissions, civic associations, churches, citizens) supports the immediate repeal of the “Lottery Modernization Amendment Act of 2010” and a moratorium on the implementation of DC Government online/Internet gambling/iGaming including computerized slots so that this issue in stand alone legislation can be thoroughly vetted in an open and fully transparent manner with proper public consideration, comments, hearings and recorded vote by the Council of the District of Columbia and approval and signature of the Mayor.