A measure to repeal the District’s controversial Internet gambling plan has enough support to send it to the full D.C. Council, setting up a high-stakes vote on whether the city government will be the first in the country to offer games like poker and blackjack online.
Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) said Monday evening they will support the repeal bill, giving it the votes necessary to emerge from the Finance and Revenue committee chaired by Evans.
In the more than 13 months since the “iGaming” proposal was first publicized, Evans has expressed concern about aspects of the program, but has otherwise shied away from addressing whether it should go forward. But he said a hearing last week on the contracting process that led to the program changed his mind.
“The hearing was very telling,” he said, noting in particular revelations that the underlying lottery contract made no mention of Internet gambling when it came up for a council vote in 2009. “The place where iGaming would have been was blank. We didn’t know we were voting on that.”
Bowser, too, said she was uncomfortable with the process that led to the contract’s approval, as well as the subsequent council process that made legal changes paving the way for the contract’s implementation. “The city may not have gotten the best deal with the process it used,” she said.
With David A. Catania (I-At Large) also likely to support repeal at Wednesday’s 1 p.m. markup, there appears to be enough support to outweigh panel members Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), who want to move forward swiftly with the program.
Brown, the main proponent of the Internet gambling plan, did not immediately return a call Monday night. If the vote goes as expected, the full 12-member council will take up the bill in February.
Should the bill pass, Evans said, he expects the council to start work on a new piece of legislation authorizing Internet gambling, with more explicit instructions on what form the program should take. Once completed, a competitive bidding process for the iGaming contract could proceed, he said.
All told, the process could take the better part of a year — likely dashing hopes that the District could be the first U.S. jurisdiction online with an government-sponsored Internet gambling system.