A billion-dollar casino proposed last week by Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker has renewed concerns that D.C.'s own lottery system is ill-equipped to compete with neighboring state markets and called into question once more the viability of internet gaming in the District.
The impact of a National Harbor casino along the Potomac River would be "substantial," said Buddy Roogow, director of the D.C. Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board, at an oversight hearing Wednesday.
"And that's probably a moderate word," he said.
Roogow said he expected to see a "division of the dollar" if Baker's vision games became a reality. Although people would still buy lottery tickets in the District, they'd cross the river to play slots and table games.
The proposed casino would join a 300-acre, $2 billion development of shops, restaurants and hotels that opened along the Potomac in Prince George's County four years ago. Legislation would need to be passed in both chambers of Maryland's General Assembly for the project to see the light of day.
"What generally happens in situations like this, they don't stop playing the lottery -- I don't think that's going to happen," Roogow said. "But I think they're going to divide their money. I think they're going to spend less (in D.C.)."
The concession arose from inquiries by at-large D.C. Councilmember Michael Brown, who has been an outspoken but controversial advocate for online gambling as an answer to the revenue loss in the lottery system.
The council repealed his bill to legalize Internet gaming last month after accusations that it had been slipped last minute into the budget, but Brown said he plans to reintroduce legislation. In the meantime, Brown questioned Roogow on what the lottery board plans do to offset D.C. decreases in Powerball sales, which dropped by about $4 million from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal 2011, as well as to make D.C. a more attractive gambling site.
"Obviously, i-gaming was supposed to be a part of that, but in lieu of that for now, what are you planning?" he questioned.
Roogow cited two new interactive games, Race2Riches and D.C. Fast Play, as well as repeated efforts to move self-service lottery machines into Metro stations.
"Beyond that, we're looking at more monitor games," he said. "What we have to do on these monitor games is offer games that are attractive, meaning they're graphically appealing, they're played on a monitor and they're interactive."