A majority of people spoke in favor of online gambling in the District at a series of community meetings designed to inform the public about the first-in-the-nation program, according to a D.C. Lottery report released Thursday.
The lottery’s summary report says 68 percent of the 155 people who spoke at the meetings support the program, known as iGaming, compared to 22 percent who opposed it and 10 percent who took a neutral stance.
Dominant talking points among those in favor of iGaming included the belief that revenue from gaming could go toward social programs and that play would be appropriate with adequate regulation. Opponents most who called for a repeal of the program cited the way it was passed by the D.C. Council in a supplemental budget bill in December of last year.
The lottery says 254 people signed in at the meetings in each of the District’s eight wards, although more may have attended.
The report’s release on the D.C. Lottery’s website comes one day after council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, announced he will hold his hearing on the program on Jan. 26 to determine whether the program should go forward or be repealed altogether.
“My role at that hearing is to present these findings,” D.C. Lottery Director Buddy Roogow said.
The lottery plans to offer four games when, and if, iGaming is implemented. Pre-approved players must register ahead of time and can play on their home computers or in pre-arranged public areas equipped with a WiFi signal that allows play.
Supporters of the program touted its potential impact on the District’s economy and said the lottery should attract a demographic with disposable income, according to the report. Some of them said the weekly betting limit of $250 is a sufficient safeguard against losses, while some said it was too low.
Opponents of the program said online gambling is risky business and the District should not be the first in the nation to try it, it places senior citizens at risk, government and gambling should not mix or they do not support the 50 percent-split of profit between the lottery system and its vendor.
Ward 4 was the only ward in which opponents of the iGaming outnumbered its supporters, at nine to eight, among public commenters.