LAST YEAR, D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) engineered passage of legislation that will make the District the first jurisdiction in the country to allow online gaming. Undisclosed at the time was the fact that Mr. Brown was employed, and paid in excess of $200,000 last year, by a law firm with significant interest in the issue. He says there was no conflict because no company represented by the firm, which he has since left, was interested in doing business in the District. In our view the legislation nonetheless might be of benefit to his then-employer. His failure to disclose the association at the time is yet another troubling example of the secrecy that has surrounded the District’s decision to legalize and promote online poker and other games.
At Mr. Brown’s initiative, an amendment to allow the D.C. Lottery to offer online gaming was slipped into the District’s supplemental budget enacted in December. If the technology works as envisioned and the federal government raises no objections, adults in the District will be able to access a geographically contained intranet to play games such as online poker and fantasy sports from their laptop computers, with additional plans for gambling “hot spots” to be set up in hotels, bars and other venues across the city. The city’s chief financial officer and its attorney general both raised questions about the legality of the measure, but there was no public hearing or committee review. Adrian M. Fenty (D), who was mayor at the time, was not consulted. There was no public debate. And to this day no explanation has been offered for why the normal process of enacting legislation wasn’t followed. “Not sure” is what Mr. Brown told us when we first wrote about it in April.