Barring a last-minute surprise, online gambling in the District may be headed back to square one.
The D.C. Council finance committee on Wednesday is expected to vote out a bill to the entire council that would repeal online gambling in the District. The full council could follow suit soon.
The original online provision was slipped into city law a year ago without any public hearings. But there have been some explosive hearings now and the anger expressed is not so much against online gambling but how it was done and how it would operate in the city.
Even Inspector General Charles Willoughby weighed in with a report that suggested the gambling details were changed after the council had approved the gambling company Intralot to run the city’s lucrative gambling operations. The report -– and Willoughby’s subsequent testimony -– was a lot more damaging than first realized. Some also complained that Intralot gets 50 percent of online revenues, far more than it does with the city’s other gambling games.
Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), chairman of the finance committee, called the special Wednesday meeting to vote on repeal. He had said at a contentious hearing last week that the council clearly did not know it was approving online gambling a year ago and certainly most District citizens and neighborhoods didn’t know.
It’s hardly likely that Evans would have scheduled a vote without expecting to have the votes for the bill.
Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) is a member of the committee and said she’d be voting with Evans and David Catania (Independent At-Large) to repeal online gambling, thus providing the crucial third vote the measure needs to go to the full council.
Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Michael Brown (Independent At-Large) were expected to vote against the repeal effort. It was Council member Brown who first moved to include online gambling in the city budget without public hearings.
“Clearly the process is convoluted and wrong,” Bowser said. “Everyone will be more comfortable” starting over, she said.