Lottery Contract Gets 2nd Chance

D.C. finance chief Natwar M. Gandhi, left, and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who seek to give the contract to a start-up, and council Chairman Vincent C. Gray.
D.C. finance chief Natwar M. Gandhi, left, and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who seek to give the contract to a start-up, and council Chairman Vincent C. Gray. (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
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By David Nakamura and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty pushed ahead yesterday in his bid to award a $120 million D.C. Lottery contract to a start-up firm, asking the D.C. Council to reconsider his controversial proposal, a day after the legislative body moved to block it.

In two letters to Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), Fenty (D) simultaneously withdrew the contract legislation from the council's consideration and resubmitted it. The maneuver gives the administration 45 more days to persuade council members to support the deal, which would have been declared dead today if no action had been taken.

Fenty and D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi are seeking to give control of the lottery operations to W2I, a nine-month-old venture, but council members have questioned the firm's credentials. Gandhi has said the city is losing $5 million a year under the management of Lottery Technology Enterprises, which has been working with the city for 25 years.

"We're not satisfied having the contract declared dead with no action," interim D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles said. "We want a vote on this."

But council members, who voted 11 to 1 to table Fenty's proposal Tuesday, reiterated their doubts.

"This mayor has a determination about him that is now well understood, and he obviously believes this is the right contract to the right people," said council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). "But I don't have any information to persuade me to change my view."

W2I is a partnership between international gaming services provider Intralot and W2Tech, a firm established less than a year ago by real estate developer Warren C. Williams Jr. and his wife, Alaka Williams. Council members have raised doubts about Warren Williams, who operated a nightclub that was closed after a patron was fatally stabbed. He also owns an apartment complex where residents have criticized his management.

Alaka Williams said yesterday that she was "very excited" about the resubmission.

"We know that we offer the best . . . when you think about overall technology and the savings," she said.

Lottery Technology Enterprises is a joint venture involving international lottery firm GTech and New Tech Games, headed by P. Leonard Manning. Ann Walker Marchant, a spokeswoman for Lottery Technology Enterprises, said the company is disappointed by Fenty's move.

"I think it's clear that the council has issues with the recommended contract," she said.

Nickles said that the Fenty administration is willing to answer additional questions from council members but that their concerns were addressed in a letter from Gandhi on April 30. Gandhi declined to comment yesterday.

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