Curses fly as DC repeals online gambling law; Senate Indian Affairs panel set

district-columbia-repeal-online-gamblingThe District of Columbia Council has voted to repeal the online gambling legislation the Council approved just last year. Following last week’s Committee on Finance and Revenue vote, the full Council voted 10-2 on Tuesday in favor of the repeal bill. The two lonely votes against the repeal came from Michael A. Brown, the champion of DC’s first-in-the-nation online gambling legislation, and former DC mayor Marion Barry. Following the vote, Barry lambasted his fellow Council members for their about-face, asking: “What kind of legislature are you? This council already has a low approval rating … and you are telling me, you didn’t know you voted on something?” That’s right, DC Council… The guy who did six months in federal prison on drug charges is taking the moral high ground. (Crack ain’t the only thing that’s wack.)

Saying there was “no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater,” Brown had proposed a last-minute compromise that would have killed DC Lottery’s online gambling contract with tech provider Intralot but leave the legislation in place. Brown floated the idea at a pre-vote breakfast meeting with the rest of Council, but his suggestion was met by angry remarks from member David Catania. The Washington Examiner reported Catania rubbishing Brown’s attempt at peacemaking as “the biggest piece of garbage” he’d ever seen. Brown fought back by claiming that “the public had spoken” in favor of the bill at numerous public meetings held last fall, something Brown suggested Catania would have known had he bothered to attend. Catania retorted that he didn’t show at any of the meetings “because I’m not obsessed with i-gaming!” From there, the ‘debate’ reportedly devolved into the kind of uncouth vocabulary more suited for Oval Office tapes released long after a president’s death.

Intralot spokesman Byron Boothe told the Washington Times that the company was “disappointed” by Council’s vote. Nonetheless, Boothe claimed Intralot was looking forward to “assisting the DC lottery as they move forward in exploring their space in today’s ever-changing gaming world.” That is, if Council’s next decision isn’t to re-bid the entire lottery contract. Council member Jack Evans, who sponsored the repeal legislation, said he wasn’t “doing anything right now, but I’d always be open to [rebidding the contract].”

While many of the Council members claimed they were only repealing the law because they wanted to go through the whole process all over again with no behind the scenes malarkey, Brown suggested future attempts at passing legislation were doomed. Lacking the full rights of self-determination afforded ‘real’ states, all DC’s legislation must be approved by Congress. Federal legislators failed to voice any objection to DC’s online gambling plans last April, but with Congress now considering its own federal online poker laws heavily backed by what Brown obliquely referred to as “casino interests,” Brown told WAMU-FM that DC’s intra-district proposal will “never get past Congress again.”

As if on cue, the list of witnesses scheduled to testify at Thursday’s Senate Committee on Indian Affairs oversight hearing into online gambling has been revealed. Panel #1 will feature testimony from Robert Odawi Porter, president of the Seneca Nation of Indians. Appearing on Panel #2 will be Kevin K. Washburn, dean of law at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Professor Alex Skibine from the University of Utah college of law; and I. Nelson Rose, senior professor at Whittier Law School in Encino, CA (and contributor). Panel #3 will hear from Poker Players Alliance litigation support director Patrick Fleming, and Phoenix attorney Glenn Feldman, of Mariscal, Weeks, McIntyre & Friedlander.