Sunday, February 12, 2012

Postscript: The 2:17 a.m. bill

Prior to taking the full council vote on repeal of the District's Internet gambling law, the Finance Committee produced a report on the matter.

The report points out that the bill authorizing Internet gambling, approved by the District Council in December, 2010, "was not circulated until 2:17 am the day of the initial vote."

The report goes on to say: "Even if members were aware of the last minute change, it is unlikely that they were able to take the time to fully educate themselves on the issue prior to being asked to cast an initial vote on the measure.  Further, questions were raised as to the advisability of enacting a potentially controversial measure in this manner, which did not allow for residents and other stakeholders to express their views through a formal hearing process."

The legislation allowing Internet gambling was subsequently approved with no debate.

The council last week reversed that decision, voting 10-2 to repeal the law.

(For a PDF version Google Docs, click here)

District of Columbia Finance Committee Report

Friday, February 10, 2012

About the repeal

The District’s Council deserves thanks for repealing the Internet gambling law.

This law should have never been adopted without public hearings, committee reviews and careful consideration by the community.  Clearly, for a law as important as this one, the process didn’t work the way it should have.

Councilman Jack Evans and the Finance Committee, in particular, deserve credit for taking steps to correct this. The committee held a roundtable last year to begin discussion on this matter. It asked D.C. Lottery to hold ward-by-ward community meetings and it followed this with the recent public hearing on the measure.

This law was expansive. It would have brought casino-type gambling into homes and bars, restaurants and hotels. It would have created new risks for families and neighborhoods. It would have hurt people
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The District would have been hurt as well. There were many unanswered questions about how the law would work.

There was no discussion, for instance, on whether the gambling age should be raised from 19 to 21. It’s 21 in Nevada.

There was nothing in the law limiting the number of neighborhood sites that could be created for gambling.

There were no limits on the types of the games. Some argue, for instance, that Internet gambling should be limited to so-called games of skill, such as poker.

There was no contingency made for addressing problem gambling, other than to limit losses to $250 a week.

There was no oversight body, no gaming commission or lottery board, created by this law to monitor and regulate the operation. There were no regulations.

By repealing, the Council, in the end, showed that the process can work.