- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 13, 2011

In the beginning, D.C. officials created an Internet gambling law and they thought it was good.
Now, not so much.

Having passed the midway point of the eight ward-by-ward public discussions of the nefarious 2010 online gambling law, residents continue to air officials’ and the law’s dirty laundry  and that is the only good thing.

Remember, the D.C. Council in December passed the Lottery Modernization Amendment Act of 2010 and Congress blessed it.

But only now are residents being given the opportunity to grill lottery director Buddy Roogow and D.C. Internet gambling “godfather” and council member Michael A. Brown, at-large independent.

An up-to-date primer of taxpayers’ concerns from Thursday night: ANC Commissioner Andy Litsky in Ward 6 said the absence of a lottery board means Mr. Roogow, as “the gambling czar,” could become sole arbiter of who can and who cannot gamble and whether and where gambling sites will be located.

Mr. Litsky’s concerns are legitimate because it was Mr. Roogow who told the New York Times in August that gamblers “can do it from Starbucks, a restaurant, bar or hotel, or from a private residence.”

Marie Drissel, proprietor of the stopdcgambling.com blogspot, urged officials to do something they have yet to do in their frantic push to implement the first-in-the-nation Internet gambling law: offer a live public demonstration. (The next meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, at the MLK Library.)

Ann Loikow, a civic activist and principled D.C. statehood advocate, questioned several aspects of D.C. online gambling, including possible conflicts with federal laws and regulations, the lack of fully vetted D.C. regulations and the fact that lottery officials would police themselves because there is no lottery oversight board.

Ms. Loikow also rightly pointed out that city officials broke the seal of public trust when they “rushed through” the law in the final budget bill of 2010.

Supporters, meanwhile, eye the potential gambling dollar signs to support education, housing and social services.

Mr. Brown, chief cook and bottle washer of the D.C. law who attends the meetings and addresses the legal and policy aspects of the law, told the people at Thursday night’s session that revenue generated by online gambling could provide affordable housing for 85 D.C. families.

That’s nice to know. But another fact overrides that statistic: The gambling revenue would be deposited into the city’s general fund coffers where, like crabs in a barrel, agency chiefs crawl all over themselves for public dollars.

Of course, at this juncture, now that the law is on the books, the issue isn’t how potential gambling dollars will be spent but how Internet gambling will be regulated and implemented.

Indeed, Mr. Roogow voluntarily attempted to answer a scenario I laid out in my Oct. 16 column: several people in one home all logged on to gamble on separate computers at the same time. But Mr. Roogow painted the wrong the picture: one that suggests “collusion” of residential gamblers instead of one that suggests inclusion of law-abiding gamblers.

Council members Jack Evans of Ward 2, Tommy Wells of Ward 6 and Marion Barry of Ward 8 are next in line to host the final public sessions. I urge all three to invite members of the faith community so they can express the moral pros and cons of gambling.

Residents also told me they want to encourage Mr. Wells, who wants to repeal the Internet gambling law, to articulate, as a lawmaker, why this law fails to pass public and legal muster.

In other words, exposing closeted supporters’ motives could go a long way toward regaining the public’s trust of city hall.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]



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