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From the Publisher's Desk...

ONLINE GAMBLING PARLORS ABOUT TO SNEAK INTO OUR NEIGHBORHOODS

While everyone has been pre-occupied over the past months by the poor national economy and its effect locally and with such issues as whether DC will have sufficient revenues coming in to fund city services and critical citizen needs in fiscal year 2012, which starts in just seven weeks from the day we inputted these words into the computer, an insidious thing has been creeping in under the radar.

We refer to the soon-to-be implemented internet gambling and online slots by the DC Lottery Board in accordance with the blank check issued by the City Council when it slipped this authorization into the city budget bill approved at it final 2010 legislative session last December.

No forewarning, except among Wilson Building insiders — and not a single member of the Council objecting. Now some are claiming they didn’t know all the ghastly provisions they unleashed without any public input or oversight! We don’t believe that.

For our readers who want to be informed of the dreadful facts we commend the detailed, but easy-to-read and understand, Q & A prepared by long-time Kalorama resident and citizen “watchdog” activist Marie A. Drissel and posted in the Special Online Content section of our website (www.intowner.com/special-online-content).

Presently being circulated to ANC commissioners, community associations, churches and others is a petition calling for the Council to repeal its so-called “Lottery Modernization Amendment Act of 2010” immediately upon return from its summer recess and that there should be a moratorium on the Lottery Board from proceeding with implementation until there can be full and open public hearings followed by a recorded vote by the Council.

The petition rightly lists many unintended consequences — actually, genuinely serious potential problems — that are likely to emerge:negative economic impacts associated with bringing online gambling supported and operated by the District of Columbia Government everyday until 4 a.m. may include increased police protection, alcohol beverage control, zoning and fire safety enforcement,” among other matters.

Also noted of concern is the potential for hacking into the DC government website since this entire system will be operated through that site; in fact, unlike any other place in the U.S, our local government will actually own and directly operate the entire enterprise — all online through its own servers. We consider this dangerous and will have the potential of exposing citizens’ personal information — tax, health, and more — to the risk of being compromised from the outside. If the defense department and other sensitive federal agencies, the big banks and department stores have been unable to prevent hacking, what makes anyone think our technology office people will be any more skillful?

And, there’s another hugely serious concern about which there is total silence. As things now stand, there is no prohibition for allowing ABC-licensed bars, taverns, restaurants from also operating as gambling “hot spots”! Further, the ABC Board has not initiated any proceeding to determine whether installing internet gambling terminals in such establishments would amount to a substantial change requiring licensees to obtain ABC Board prior approval. Our view is that if they do not so rule, the Board will be flooded with protests filed against any licensee that chooses to proceed. What a mess that will be! We urge to Board to act to designate such activity as requiring a substantial change hearing.

Now, we’ve been assured there will be public input before the Lottery Board proceeds. But it doesn’t seem to us that they really want to hear from us given that they waited until August 4th to mail notices to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission chairpersons informing them of an August 16th meeting to be told about the October implementation. Note that these notices were sent to just the chairpersons, many of whom probably don’t even know about these because, like so many others, they are likely to be at the beach or elsewhere at this time of the year.

How convenient for the city to have these and the eight ward meetings of a mere two hours each to be held in small DC library meeting rooms at a time when so many citizens are gone. It’s a travesty! For those who want to know what the Lottery Board and City Council consider to be adequate “community outreach” one can judge for themselves by visiting www.dclottery.com/AboutUs/igaminginfo.aspx.

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