The proponents of next Tuesday's District of Columbia referendum to legalize city-run lottery and daily numbers games cleared another obstacle yesterday as the U.S. Court of Appeals here rejected a move by four antigambling Baptist ministers to keep the measure off the ballot.
Without stating its reasons, a three-judge panel upheld an earlier lower court decision that said signatures of registered voters collected to get the intiative on the ballot were valid. The appeal was apparently the antigambling forces' last chance to defeat this proposal, which has been steadily gaining support in the final week of the campaign.
The Washington Post yesterday endorsed the referendum, as did WDVM television station in an editorial broadcast Wednesday night. Both The Post and WDVM had opposed a similar gambling referendum that District voters overwhelmingly rejected May 6. The previous initiative would have also legalized gambling on jai alai and dog racing, which the current proposal excludes.
"It's going to be up to the Lord now," said the Rev. Andrew Fowler, executive secretary of the Committee of 100 Ministers and one of the city's most outspoken opponents of legalized gambling.
Ron Cocome, treasurer and coordinator of the D.C. Committee on Legalized Gambling, which is spearheading support for the referendum, described the appeals court decision as "the last hurdle. And between The Post editorial and WDVM, both of which reversed their previous positions, I cautiously predict victory."