- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 30, 2004

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday he opposes slot machines in the District but supports the right of residents to vote on a proposal to build a casino in Northeast.

“What I have said all along is, on many issues I have been in a different position from my own citizens,” Mr. Williams said. “I think in this case, you’re talking about an issue that really relates to the quality of life. … My own personal view … is that I don’t think gambling belongs in the District.”

A group trying to build a $500 million gambling-and-entertainment complex along New York Avenue in Northeast is expected to begin collecting signatures to put the issue on the November ballot, after a special meeting of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics at 2 p.m. today.

A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that the board of elections could issue the petitions, rejecting a challenge from a group of residents that said the initiative was not a proper subject for consideration on a ballot.

Supporters need to collect signatures from 17,500 persons, or 5 percent of registered D.C. voters, by 4:45 p.m. next Tuesday to get the initiative on the ballot.

Mr. Williams said he would sign a petition but would not vote for the initiative. He also said he would not actively campaign against the initiative if it gets to the ballot.

“But certainly when asked my opinion, I will give my opinion,” he said.

“I respect the right of citizens to vote on this,” he said. “I won’t take the next step, actively try to keep it off the ballot, [or] the next step, actively campaign against it.”

Mr. Williams said he saw no contradiction in his position because he signs petitions for candidates he doesn’t support out of respect for their right to get on the ballot.

Local businessman Pedro Alfonso, who is the chief executive of the District-based telecommunications firm Dynamic Concepts, is among those seeking to build the complex.

John Ray, a former D.C. Council member and a lawyer representing proponents of the initiative, said the principal investor and the person bankrolling the effort is businessman Rob Newell, an Idaho native who lives in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Mr. Newell is funding the initiative through his company, North Atlantic Investments LLC, which is based in St. Croix, Virgin Islands.

According to the text of the initiative, the group wants voter approval for a 14-acre facility, called the Capital Horizon Entertainment Complex, with 3,500 video-lottery terminals on New York Avenue NE, between Montana Avenue and Bladensburg Road.

The project also would include a 600- to 800-room hotel, a conference center, a bowling alley, a movie theater and retail shops.

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