D.C. Mayor Marion Barry yesterday nominated five persons to the city's new powerful and highly paid gaming control board, including two staunch gambling supporters who led the four-year effort to legalize a city-run lottery and daily numbers game in the nation's capital.
Barry nominated Brant Coopersmith, the retired director of the Washington office of the American Jewish Committee, to serve a four-year term on the board and be its first chairman. Coopersmith chaired a citizen's gambling study commission in 1977 and went on to lead the group that spearheaded support for a gambling referendum that was approved by voters last November.
Jerry Copper, the Ward 1 Democratic Club chairman and another key figure in the campaign to legalize gambling, was named to a two-year term.
The gambling board members will preside over a business in which $100 million a year might be wagered.They will decide which lottery equipment firms will get coveted mulitmilliom dollar contacts to operate the city's games and what kinds of specialized lotteries will be run in the city.
The board will also adopt the regulations that will determine which local businesses can be licensed to sell lottery tickets. In neighboring Maryland, which has a legal lottery, store owners collect a 5 percent commission for each ticket sold and say that ticket buyers often purchase other items as well. Numerous D.C. retail store executives say they expect the same thing to occur in the city. Several city liquor store operators actively pushed for passage of the D.C. gambling initiative.
Coopersmith and Cooper both said that it likely will be the middle of next year at the earliest before the mechanics are all in place for the city to begin running its own lottery and daily numbers game.
But they said the board could also opt for an "instant" numbers game, in which bettors buy tickets and rub off circles or squares to instantly discover if they are winners. That game requires a minimum of equipment and could be started several months earlier.
The other three nominess Barry named to the five-member panel were: Lillian Wiggins, 49, a columnist for the Washington Afro-American who espouses the view that whites have a "master plan" to take political control in the city and the only appointee who opposed passage of the the referendum; Almore M. Dale, 70, a long-time Anacostia community activist, and Carolyn B. Lewis, 44, chairwoman of the D.C. Commission of Women who is active in various community health projects. Wiggins was named to a two-year term, while Dale and Lewis will serve three-year terms.
The mayor's nominations must be approved by the City Council, which returns Monday from a spring recess. If public hearing are held on the mayor's nominees, the confirmation process could take at least a month.
As chairman, Coopersmith will be paid $18,000 annually, while the other four board members will be paid $15,000. But there is still no money allocated in the city's budget to pay the salaries of the commission members, their staff or gambling start-up costs.
Copper estimated that it will cost between $200,000 and $300,000 to set up the commission and staff, an amount he said the city council could find through reprogramming -- which is essentially diverting unspent funds which were originally allocated for some other purpose.
The salaries for the commissoners are equivalent to the starting salary for a GS-7. On the basis one meeting per month, as required by law, the salary is more than most Washington bank directors recieve. By comparison, Maryland's five lottery commissioners are not paid, but recieve 16-to-18 cents per mile when they have to drive to their monthly meetings.
Cooper and Coopersmith both said the commission members could agree to serve some time without being paid until the city's expected gambling profits -- estimated as high as $30 million a year -- start coming in.
The first step for the board members, after their confirmation, is to select an executive director, a full-time powerful $500,000-a-year staff person who will recommend the rules and regulations to the board and set up the actual gambling operations here.
Cooper and Coopersmith both said they would prefer an executive director with some administrative experience. This would differ from most other states with legal lotteries, which have recruited retired or former law enforecement officials to run their legal gambling operations.
"I think we would need management skills instead of law enforcement experience," Cooper said. "We need someone who could come in and set up a new industry."
The most immediate task facing the new commission and its director will be to draft rules and to regulate lotteries and bingo games for charitable purposes. Such funraisers already provide a cash bonanza for many Washington churches, even though such gambling activities were illegal before the initiative passed.
Bringing all of these current illegal gambling operations under new regulations will be the first test for the new board, one nominee said.
The initiative passed last November does not legalize social gambling, such as the wagering on bridge and poker games or sports.
Wiggins, the newspaper columnist nominated, said she opposed legalizing gambling here. She wrote several columns in her newspaper vigorously attacking an initiative which was defeated last May that would have legalized dog racing and jai alai in addition to a lottery and numbers game.
But since the more limited gambling referendum was approved, Wiggins said, "I'd like to be the watchdog on the board."