Wednesday July 20, 2011 : Council member to introduce measure to repeal new law allowing internet gambling
Washington DC's achievement of becoming the first US state to legalise online gambling may be short-lived, if Democrat council member Tommy Wells has his way; he intends to seek a repeal of the new law before it is even implemented.
Wells said Tuesday that he plans to introduce legalization this fall that would stop the online gambling initiative in its tracks. The council member said he objected to the way online gambling became law and did not fully understand the measure when it was slipped into the budget.
"It's not good government. It's not transparent," Wells told the Associated Press news agency.
Wells first announced his intention to seek a repeal during an interview on News Channel 8 this week.
The online gambling bill was authored by independent council member Michael A. Brown, who included it in a budget bill late 2010. The bill passed without objections, and then – despite widespread publicity – failed to attract any negative comment or complaints from Congress, either within the window allowed for such criticism, or since.
However, another council member, Jack Evans opposed the measure and called a hearing on the DC Lottery's implementation plan for the new law. Following this, it was decided to delay implementation whilst a wider public consultation on the desirability of the new law was conducted.
D.C. Lottery Director Buddy Roogow is planning to hold community forums in all eight of the city's wards to listen to concerns from residents and said Tuesday he would give "great weight" to the concerns aired at those meetings.
Evans, who is also the chairman of the Washington DC council's finance and revenue committee, said Tuesday that he's spoken to Wells about the issue but does not favour repealing online gambling at this point. He instead plans to hold another hearing in October.
"I'm not going to do it until I'm very comfortable that this thing is OK," Evans said. "It could be a long time or not. I don't have a timetable in mind. It's not going to go into effect certainly until after October, if at all."
Evans said that because the law has been approved but not implemented, the Council has ample opportunity to give it the vetting it needs.
Wells said he was not morally opposed to gambling but that he wasn't sure how the new program would benefit the district.
The online gambling law's author, Michael A. Brown, says no other council members have signaled their displeasure with the way the program was approved. He said he supported Evans' efforts to ensure the public had a say in its implementation.
"I want it to be done right, not fast," he said.
Wells' power on the Council was diminished last week when Council Chairman Kwame Brown stripped him of his chairmanship of the transportation committee. Wells was the only member to vote against the change. After the vote, he said his commitment to ethics and good government made some of his colleagues "uncomfortable."