Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An unanswered question about the gambling bill

The District’s gambling bill was approved as a budget rider in Dec. 2010. By taking that path, its proponents avoided public hearings.

Why did proponents decide to avoid hearings?

There is no good answer. But it is clear that the gambling bill could have been introduced as free standing legislation many months prior.

The emails, below, from May 2010 between members of CM Brown and CM Evan’s staff make it clear that there was discussion about possible legislation. A free-standing bill was also suggested.

At the end of the memo chain is what appears to be the text of draft legislation. The complete document isn’t available. The proposal seeks to give D.C. Lottery the ability “to update its games and maintain competitiveness.”

That bill was never introduced in May, 2010 and the gambling issue never surfaced until Dec. 2010, when a bill was introduced and then quickly adopted.

Many months following these events, gambling bill sponsor CM Michael Brown discussed the legislative history in a letter to the ANCs. For him, this legislative history begins in December, 2010 – nine months after these memos.

In this letter, written earlier this year, Brown wrote in part:

“I briefed my colleagues at the Council breakfast meeting prior to first reading, where members of the press were present. In early December, several media outlets reported on the provision.” (See this post and this one for background)

What Brown is describing is the first public appearance of the gambling bill. The time between the initial press reports and law’s passage was less than a month.

There was no reason for this speed.

The District approved a contract on March 30, 2010 with Intralot that allowed new types of gambling in the District.

This contract helped to put into motion a plan to bring online gambling and neighborhood casinos to the District. Had the media seen this contract, District residents may have had time to consider this proposal.

Reporters might have asked: Why is the District approving a contract that allows for creation of things like an “e-Wallet,” and development of “IP blocking policies.”

Reporters would have asked about the planned “Player Portal.”  (This portal is described in the March 30, 2010 contract this way: The proposed solution provides a web portal framework and web page templates that can be used to quickly deploy an interactive gaming Web site.)

Nobody asked about the contract. But the plan to bring online gambling to the District was very much in the works.

What the District’s gambling proponents needed was enabling legislation. And that’s what these emails are discussing, nine months before legislation sneaked in.

Please click to enlarge: 

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