- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Greek company charged with running the D.C. lottery system is hiring personnel as part of their online gaming “strategy” in the city and three unidentified states, even though the program has not passed key hurdles in the District.

Intralot, which holds the lottery contract with a local partner in a joint venture called DC09, has posted job openings such as “Table Games Operator” to support first-in-the-nation efforts to introduce poker, blackjack and other wagered games over the Internet.

Intralot recognizes that the D.C. program, known as I-Gaming, still needs community input and key approvals, according to Byron Boothe, the company’s vice president for government relations.

“Obviously, the city has to make its decision at some point,” he said.

“Irrespective of that,” he added, the company is moving ahead with an “I-Gaming strategy” to have personnel who they can train and place in the appropriate locations, which may or may not start with the District.
He said no one would be promised a job unless an I-Gaming program is in place.

“This is going to be a slow process,” Mr. Boothe said, noting he believes 11 I-Gaming positions have been posted. “We don’t want to hire someone and then not have a job for them.”

Mr. Boothe declined to name the three other states Intralot has in mind for I-Gaming, but noted the District is the farthest ahead in paving the way for legal online gambling. Besides the District, Intralot has contracts in Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, South Carolina, Ohio, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Vermont and Arkansas, according to its website.

Buddy Roogow, executive director of the D.C. Lottery, said the job postings were “news to me” and that Intralot did not ask him to review or screen the offerings.

He said Intralot is free to move on its own to uphold their end of the city contract.

But as Intralot moves to hire personnel, the program to allow online gambling on home computers and in certain public areas within the District has not obtained the green light to move forward.

Oversight hearings by council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, prompted the D.C. Lottery to schedule community meetings to listen to the public’s concerns.

The I-Gaming measure passed in an unusual way, after council member Michael A. Brown, at-large independent, inserted it into a supplemental budget bill without prior hearings.

Many say the public needs more insight into the location and nature of “trusted sites,” or public areas with a WiFi signal that allows I-Gaming on personal laptops. Critics also noted the potential for addictive online games to ruin families financially.

Lottery officials scheduled meetings with advisory neighborhood commissioners and residents in each of the wards, yet postponed them amid objections about the late-summer dates. As of this week, the lottery had not set new dates for the meetings.

Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, plans to introduce a bill to repeal I-Gaming during the first legislative session after the council returns from its summer recess, and other council members have indicated support for a re-examination of the online gambling program.

Mr. Brown has defended the program as a constructive way to regulate online gambling while generating revenue for city coffers.

Although the program will not begin by Oct. 1, the city’s chief financial officer is optimistic the District will reach its revenue estimate of $2.2 million for fiscal year 2012.

“Ultimately,” Mr. Roogow said, “it’s the decision of the city council and the mayor whether we move forward.”

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