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D.C. Council Rethinking Online Gambling Provision

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The District's online gambling venture may no longer a sure bet. During a marathon hearing yesterday, several members of the D.C. Council called for  iGaming, as its known, to face a vote before the council on whether the program should be repealed.

D.C. Council Member David Catania is threatening to sue the office of Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi if the full council doesn't get a chance to take a stand alone vote on iGaming. Catania, who has long clashed with Gandhi over other issues, told the CFO he should resign for amending the lottery contract after it had been approved by council members.

"You have robbed this body of its legislative authority," Catania said during the hearing. "This whole contract should be called into question." 

Although an audit released this week concluded that D.C.'s rushed approval of the measure was legal, online gaming's journey from a far-fetched idea to District law has been by all accounts  highly unusual.

As council members learned at the hearing, they technically approved online gambling when they approved a lottery contract with the Greek company Intralot in 2008 that included options for "non-traditional gaming." The contract did not specify iGaming, however.

Then in late 2010, Council member Michael Brown, without a public hearing,  added language to the city's budget bill authorizing iGaming. Months later, the measure became law. But as details about the program -- which would make D.C. the first jurisdiction in the country to have government-sponsored online gambling -- started to trickle out, there was push-back by some community activists. 

It was at that point, months after iGaming became law and years after they technically approved it, the council pressed the pause button on online gambling and started holding hearings.

As Council member Tommy Wells noted at the hearing, the city is "kind of working backwards now."

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