The Lottery Modernization Amendment Act has been a source of controversy for nearly a year, after residents and several lawmakers came to fully understand the impact of the legislation, which had been slipped into a budget bill and passed without a public hearing. A recently released report by Inspector General Charles Willoughby found the process for awarding the contract and passing Internet gambling rife with irregularities and questionable behaviors. An explosive council hearing last week underscored and heightened concerns.
"It became clear to me the council never voted on Internet gambling," Committee Chairman Jack Evans told me, adding that the contract Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi presented in December 2009 to the legislature referred only to nontraditional games, "and that page was blank.
"With the 2010 budget amendment, no one was focused on it or knew what it really was," Evans added.
At-large Councilman Phil Mendelson, who co-introduced the repeal bill, said he "always had a certain degree of reluctance about using gambling as a source of revenue." Further, in 2009, he was the lone vote against awarding the lottery contract to Intralot, a Greek gaming corporation.
"The odor around the lottery contract is so great, we need to start over," Mendelson added.
I'm with him. But repealing the Internet gambling law wouldn't void the existing lottery contract. Still, half a loaf is better than none.
At-large Councilman Michael Brown, who sponsored the Modernization Act, told me he's "disappointed for residents of the District who will not get the revenue bonanza because of this repeal." He added that he believes "there still remain thousands of residents who will not be protected because online gaming is already here."
He doesn't mention that many of those sites are illegal, however.
"I'm sure, I'm going to, in the end, reintroduce [an Internet gambling bill]," Brown said.
In an earlier conversation, Brown gave me grief about my Monday column, in which I said he told the IG he titled his Internet gambling bill "Lottery Modernization Act" to deflect attention.
"I never said that," Brown told me.
He's right; those weren't his words. That was my interpretation of a section of the IG's report in which Brown told the IG he "received information and advice from various sources, including Intralot." According to the IG, Brown said he decided the "easiest and simplest way to legalize iGaming would be define lottery and put the definition of iGaming in the legislation." His bill subsequently was titled the Lottery Modernization Amendment Act.
But that's all history.
Karen Sibert, spokeswoman for Council Chairman Kwame Brown, told me he "remains opposed to any form of gambling." That could mean there are enough votes in the full council to pass the repeal. It is expected to take up the measure in next week's legislative agenda.
Jonetta Rose Barras' column appears on Monday and Wednesday. She can be reached at email@example.com.