Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Last Night's Ward 6 Community Meeting

UPDATED 11/23/11 with some local news links.

Last night, Ward 6 residents Allison Hazen, Molissa Farber, Jim Richards, Rick Howard, Adam Axler, Chris Jeon, Eric Melancon, Mike Nicholson, Yvonne Mattiello, Mike Crowley, Yenu Woldehana, Alex Haurek, Ray Hubbard and yours truly ... along with other DC residents Billy Kinberg, Andy Oxfeld, Rae McClary, Chuck Perry, Wayne Bonomo, Joe Cobb and several others I am accidentally omitting - attended the final DC Lottery Community meeting at historic Eastern Market to discuss the iGaming program.

In what was the most well attended meeting yet, the room was overwhelmed with support for the iGaming program.  I estimate there were ~80 people in the room.  Of the ~40 people who gave oral comments, ~35 of them voiced their support for online gaming.  The few who gave relevant articulate comments against iGaming seemed to feel disappointed or unhappy that they were not consulted as a part of last year's iGaming legislative track.

Of the many Ward 6 residents in attendance, many thanks go to Allison Hazen, Molissa Farber, Jim Richards, Adam Axler, Yvonne Mattiello, and Billy Kinberg who gave compelling commentary to the Lottery and to the two Councilmen in the room - Ward 6's Tommy Wells & Michael Brown (At-Large) - about their feelings on iGaming and experiences with online gaming as it has existed.

Here are a number of links to the comments of those Ward 6 residents that chose to write them down before delivering them Monday night.
  • The Jewish Girl - Wrote a firey blog post recounting the meeting and the issue in general in more elaborate detail than I think I ever could. 
  • Yvonne Mattiello (with sign language interpreter) - Presented on behalf of the Deaf Community at Gallaudet on why online gaming is a preferred way for the deaf to play skill/chance games.  She also mentioned how the revenue generated could trickle down to helping people with disabilities such as the deaf.
  • Allison Hazen - Talked to the type of player that plays online games and to the losses suffered by many due to the seizure and improper handling of player funds by offshore companies, and contradicted many of the claims made some anti-online gaming folks.  She pointed out that teacher's jobs could be saved by the extra revenue brought in.
I urge you to take a moment, click, and read these three different takes on iGaming from Ward 6 residents.  I do not think I could say it better. 

I am glad that Councilman Wells was willing and able to attend and hear from his voting bloc.  (Not every Ward member chose to or was able to attend their scheduled meeting.)  I was a bit surprised by his tweets during the meeting, which I saw today, but ultimately it seemed like he and others in attendance learned a lot about iGaming that they were previously unaware up or for whatever reason, hadn't been adequately briefed on.  Let's hope it makes a difference!

Local News so far:
Washington Post 11/22/11 - Debonis
Washington Times 11/28/11 - Howell
DCist 11/29/11 - Morrissey

Not so Local News:
Reviewed Casino - 11/23/11
Advisor - 11/24/11

NEXT MEETING:  Ward 6's Community meeting was the final one of the series put on by the Lottery.  I think there is going to be another council hearing at some point in the near future - Will update.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Last Night's Ward 2 Community meeting

Last night, Ward 2 residents Billy Kinberg and Ben Colbert; and I attended the DC Lottery's community meeting discussing their online gaming roll out.

I am happy to report that the room was filled again by pro-iGaming DC residents who made up a strong majority of the room.  Out of ~20 Ward 2 residents, only one of them voiced opposition to iGaming legislation, the rest voiced support.  The remaining non-Ward 2 residents numbered around 15 or so, and an overwhelming majority of them voiced their support for online gaming as well. 

Many thanks to Billy and Ben who both gave wonderful comments on their hope DC moves forward with the iGaming initiative.

After the meeting, I spoke briefly with the one of the folks that has been quite vocal against the passage of iGaming.  She mentioned she was unhappy with the law and suggested that the law gives sole oversight to the DC CFO's office in determining the direction of iGaming. 

I really do not see any merit to these arguments.  Is the status quo of international companies like Full Tilt, Ultimate Bet (federally indicted) and BoDog (currently operating) which are operating out of places like South Korea, Ireland, and the Caribbean a better alternative to a government run iGaming site?  

Many of us have lost many dollars playing on unsafe, unregulated, internationally run sites.  A government run option is clearly a better and safer alternative - The preferred alternative for anyone who has ever played these entertaining games. 

No one will be forced to play.  In fact, many will not be able to play because of the system's necessary requirements that players have a) a bank account, b) a computer, and c) an approved internet connection.  Many of DC's neediest people unfortunately do not meet some of these requirements and thus would not be able to get on the website.

Someone has to manage an iGaming site and delaying its implementation will only put more players in danger, not to mention all the rake dollars being siphoned off to these overseas companies.  If that someone performs poorly or mismanages iGaming monies...well...all the better that we will have the capability to petition the government for their removal.


If you can come, please let me know!  We need your voice out there!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Last Night's Ward 1 Community Meeting

Last night, Ward 1 Residents Joe Cobb and Chuck Perry and I attended the Ward 1 Community meeting held by the DC Lottery to inform and receive comments from residents regarding the online gaming platform - iGaming - that is coming to the District.

I am very happy to report that the room (~40 attendees) was dominated (at least 80% of the comments were pro-iGaming) by those in favor of online gaming.  There were some Ward 1 residents in the crowd asking some interesting questions and seemed on the fence about iGaming - curious about iGaming's impact on the community. 

The Lottery chief answered their questions. 
  1. Will businesses be able to opt out of iGaming from their locations?
    • Yes, any business IP address and location will have to be approved for access to the iGaming website.  The business would have to apply for its location to have access to the site.  Conversely, any business can opt-out and easily block access to the iGaming site as well. 
  2. Will Neighborhoods associations be consulted, let known where iGaming is happening?  (This was the gist of one question.  I don't remember it exactly.)
    • Yes, information on Secure iGaming Locations will be accessible to the public.  Also, anyone or any business can opt-out.
  3. Will folks be able to play from home?
    • Yes, folks will be able to play from home, on their own approved computer device.  19 years and older, with a bank account.
  4. Will people be capable of playing at schools, federal buildings, libraries, etc.?
    • No.  IP addresses at those locations, in addition to other Internet Signal Blocking technologies will be used to disallow anyone at these locations access to the iGaming platform.
Only one guy stood up avidly opposed to iGaming.  (He was from Ward 6 and seemed to be real angry that Ward 6's meeting was rescheduled from last week to late November.  *The Lottery posted the reschedule notice just 3 days before it was scheduled to happen.)

Kudos to Joe Cobb for giving a compelling speech noting that he like many others would save lots of money if they were allowed to play Poker in their homes instead of having to pay significant commuting costs to get to out-of-town casinos.  He mentioned he does not like the Weekly Loss Limit Cap as citizens should be able to wager their own money to their heart's content - (I do like the weekly loss limit and we argued about it later.). 
P.S. I know I spend at least $130/trip back/forth from the Showboat.

I haven't seen any news bits to come out yet about this meeting.  I'll update if it does. 

Next meeting: Thursday, November 10 - Ward 3 - Palisades Library - 4901 V St. NW - 6:30-8pm.

Let me know if you can/will come!!!

Love to see your voice out there!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tomorrow's Online Gaming Meeting in Ward 1! ... and Recap from Ward 7.

Tomorrow, November 1st, the DC Lottery is hosting it's 4th community meeting on Online gaming in Ward 1 at the Marie Reed Learning Center, 2200 Champlain St. NW from 6:30pm-8:00pm. 

Marie Reed Learning Center
2200 Champlain St. NW

Let me know if you would like to come!

Here's the Lottery's site on iGaming: http://dclottery.com/AboutUs/iGaminginfo.aspx

Brief Recap of the Ward 7 Meeting Two Weeks Ago

Charles Phaneuf, Rae McClary and I attended the Ward 7 meeting on Oct 18th - This one was very similar to the previous two DC Lottery meetings discussing Online gaming and Online Poker.  There were ~25 people in attendance, including Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander and crowd of mostly Ward 7 citizens.

After the Lottery's presentation, the various Ward citizens present were given an opportunity to chime in about the presentation and what they thought about online gaming.  Even I was surprised to hear and see that 90+% were in favor of online gaming.  Many of them mentioned their travels to AC to play various games and several advocated for online poker!  The two or three concerned people that spoke expressed misgivings that they probably would not be able to participate in the games because they didn't meet some of the eligibility requirements necessary to play, namely:
  1. Must have a bank account/debit account
  2. Must have your own computer (Play is restricted at all libraries, schools, in federal buildings, etc.)
Personally, I find these consumer protection provisions refreshing - especially the one no one mentioned - the $250 weekly loss cap. 

I got the impression that Yvette Alexander herself seemed surprised at the tenor of a majority of her constituents in attendance.  *Note - this is not a direct quote* but she mentioned her interest and support of new and innovative revenue generators to help out social services programs.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Last Night's Community Meeting in Petworth - Ward 4

Last night, Allison Hazen and I attended the Community Meeting in Petworth to hear what the Lottery had to say about the DC's iGaming initiative and hear from and talk to residents about iGaming.

~50 people attended from across Ward 4 and a few other interested people, including Councilmembers Bowser and Brown.

Overall, I would estimate that ~70% of the people in attendance spoke in support of iGaming and online Poker and the rest were concerned with the process of how iGaming was to be implemented and where the revenue would eventually be allocated.  Some also spoke to concerns about not being given timely notification regarding iGaming's legislative passage in the FY 2011 Supplemental Budget Support Act of 2010.

There were ~10 poker players in attendance.  All had great stories to tell and were great faces for the poker community.  Thank you all for speaking up! 

I really think those in the audience that probably do not have the regular opportunity to see the sincere, quality people that play online games (like poker) left the meeting with a positive perspective on iGaming after hearing you speak!

Up next...
According to the Lottery's iGaming website the meeting in Ward 6 has been pushed back a week to Thursday, October 27 - 6:30pm. (EDITOR: IT'S BEEN PUSHED BACK AGAIN TO LATE NOVEMBER)

Next meeting: Ward 1 - Marie Reed Learning Center - 2200 Champlain St., NW - 6:30pm

See here for October: http://dclottery.com/pdfs/igaming/OctoberFinalCalendar2.pdf
We need more of your excellent voices out there!

Friday, October 14, 2011

News from last night's community meeting

Mike Debonis of the Post and Martin Austermuhle of DCist recently published a couple pieces that I believe fairly well captured the mood of 1st Online Games community meeting last night at a small Ward 5 library.

Here they are.

There are more community meetings to come.  I'll keep you all posted.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

1st DC Community Hearing on Online Poker and Gaming Tonight!

Tonight, we will get a chance for the 1st time to hear from the DC Lottery how they plan to implement their online gaming plan. 

Here's the info, please attend if you can.

October 13 - 6:30pm-8:30pm
Lamond Riggs Library
5401 South Dakota Avenue NE
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Please come out and show your support.  It should be pretty interesting! 

Here's the link to the DC Lottery's site: http://dclottery.com/AboutUs/iGaminginfo.aspx

Here is the full schedule of community meetings:
  • October 13: Ward 5, Lamond Riggs Library, 5401 South Dakota Avenue NE, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • October 17: Ward 4, Petworth Library, 4200 Kansas Ave., NW, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • October 18: Ward 7, IDEA Public Charter School, 1027 45th Street NE, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • November 1: Ward 1, Marie Reed Learning Center, 2200 Champlain Street NW, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • November 10: Ward 3, Palisades Library, 4901 V Street NW, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • November 15: Ward 2, Jelleff Recreation Center, 3265 S Street NW, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • November 17: Ward 8, Anacostia Library, 1800 Good Hope Road SE, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • November 21: Ward 6, Location TBD, 6:30pm
Before you go to a meeting, you'll likely want to read a copy of the proposed rules for the program; if you can't make it to a meeting, there are ways to make sure your comments are heard.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Community Ward Meetings announced!

This week, the DC government is launching "community meetings" to gather input from citizens in DC.  Please come out and show your support. 

Officials with the DC Lottery, which is implementing the new gaming sites, are holding community meetings in each of the city’s eight wards over the next two months to address concerns over online gaming.  The first one is this Thursday, October 13th!

This is an opportunity to hear the real story behind how the games will be implemented and regulated, in addition to how it will be made available to all of us who would like to participate and play.

Let me know if you would like me to send you some information on DC's effort to implement online poker.  I testified before the DC City Council in June on Online Poker's merits and how much fun it is to be able to play online poker for low-stakes. 

It would be great if you could come out and attend some of these meetings.  Let me know if you would like to by posting in the comments or emailing me directly!

Here is the full schedule of community meetings:
CHECK HERE FOR UP-TO-DATE INFO: http://dclottery.com/AboutUs/iGaminginfo.aspx
  • October 13: Ward 5, Lamond Riggs Library, 5401 South Dakota Avenue NE, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • October 17: Ward 4, Petworth Library, 4200 Kansas Ave., NW, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • October 18: Ward 7, IDEA Public Charter School, 1027 45th Street NE, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • November 1: Ward 1, Marie Reed Learning Center, 2200 Champlain Street NW, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • November 10: Ward 3, Palisades Library, 4901 V Street NW, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • November 15: Ward 2, Jelleff Recreation Center, 3265 S Street NW, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • November 17: Ward 8, Anacostia Library, 1800 Good Hope Road SE, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
  • November 21: Ward 6, Eastern Market, North Hall, 225 7th St. SE, 6:30pm
Before you go to your meeting, you'll likely want to read a copy of the proposed rules for the program; if you can't make it to a meeting, there are ways to make sure your comments are heard.

Some recent news articles and a video about the initiative.
Video from a charity event on Capitol Hill

Washington Post/AP - June 29
Washington Times - June 29
Observer - Aug 16
Washington Post - Sept 19
New York Times - Oct 8

Thursday, August 4, 2011

DC Holds Hearing on Online Gaming - Rules Online Gaming Legal

On June 29, the DC City Council held a hearing on the future of online gaming/online poker in the District.   

Click HERE to view the hearing on Windows Media Player. 
Skip ahead to the 3:06 mark to see someone you probably recognize!
If that doesn't work, go HERE and click on "View Meeting" for the following hearing.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Allison Hazen Ward 6 Speech

Hi.   My name is Allison Hazen and I’ve been a DC resident since 1998 and a member of the Ward 6 community for nearly 10 years of that.   I chose to buy a home in Ward 6, in part, because of the good work Tommy Wells has done.  However, on this particular issue, I’m afraid that I don’t agree with him.
I have been a poker player for more than 20 years.    Because there wasn’t a regulated environment in which to play, I, like many other players, was a victim and lost money on Full Tilt.  Now I have to drive to Charlestown or to Delaware Park to play, which is costly and takes revenue away from the District.  My friend Rick Howard -- right over there -- has parents who are 81 and 82 years old. They drive to Charlestown to play.  I’d like a safe environment in which to play online, and I’d imagine that his parents as they get older would welcome a safe place to play that wouldn’t require them to get out and drive late at night to another state.
Tommy Wells has asked that the community weigh in on iGaming.  I’ve attended several of these city council meetings and I’ve been impressed by the large numbers of residents who support iGaming in the District for a number of reasons.   A recent Washington Times poll showed that 85% of people support the legalization of online poker.  The response is overwhelmingly in favor.  However, there have been some concerns that I’d like to address briefly and respond to:
1.       The argument has been made that DC shouldn’t be the first in the Nation to vote on this. 
a.       When has it ever been wrong to be the 1st to do something if it’s the right thing to do?  As the sister of a gay brother, I am proud that DC was brave enough to finally grant him the civil rights he deserves.  We didn’t sit back and wait for all the other states.  We forged ahead and made history.
b.      Additionally, Poker and DC have a history as old as the country itself so perhaps it’s only fitting that we be the first.  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln both were card players.  Franklin Roosevelt can be heard shuffling poker chips during several of his Fireside Chats.  Harry Truman was an avid poker player and his “the buck stops here,” references the Dealer Button (which was called a Buck) that moves around a poker table.  Our very own Barack Obama is a poker player.
2.       I’ve also heard the argument the expected revenue is too small to justify any associated risks.
a.       That small revenue, as Councilman Brown has noted, would provide shelter for 85 needy families. 
b.      Additionally – and since I come from a family of teachers this one is especially important to me – that small revenue would pay for the annual salary of 56 teachers in the District.
c.       A small amount can do so much.
3.       I’ve heard complaints about how the measure was introduced.  That it was “slipped into” the budget in a sneaky manner.
a.       Similar measures are a regular part of the annual budget process.  This year’s budget features several new additions (such as Changes to Eligibility for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) – none of which were opened up for public scrutiny.   
b.      The iGaming provision was a creative solution to help meet DC’s budgetary shortfalls.  It was only appropriate that it be a part of the budget.
4.       I’ve also heard complaints that we don’t need money if it comes from gambling revenue.
a.       Current Games already offered include Powerball, DC Daily 6, DC-5, DC-4, Keno, Mega Millions numerous scratch tickets, as well as charity raffles and charity poker tournaments.  It’s already legal to play poker in the District and it’s already being managed by the DC Lottery.  The only change is here that we’d like the ability to do so online.
b.      The argument against iGaming is the equivalent of saying that it’s okay to buy groceries in the store, but that you should not be able to order them online.

These Community meetings have been great.  We’ve learned that most residents support online gaming and that a lot of the concerns of those who don’t center on where the money should be spent and on who will oversee issues as they arise – not with iGaming itself. 

I was just at the Ward 8 council meeting in Anacostia last week.  Not a single person in the room spoke out against this measure.  Many spoke in favor of the revenue and of what it could do for their community. 

There isn’t a single new law that’s perfect at the beginning.  That’s why feedback like this is so good.  But to take an excellent idea that could really benefit the District and derail it based on technicalities isn’t fare to District residents who could so clearly benefit from this revenue.

I want to thank Tommy Wells for his continued work for the District.  Although I disagree with you on this issue, I applaud you for the other 99% of what you do for us daily.

FROM WARD 6 COMMUNITY MEETING - NOVEMBER 20, 2011 - 6:30pm-8:30 - Eastern Market - North Hall

Yvonne Mattiello Ward 6 Speech

        Thank you for this opportunity. My name is Yvonne Mattiello and I am a free-lance

certified deaf interpreter working primarily out of Ward 6.  I work down the street at

Gallaudet University and at other interpreting agencies in and around Washington, D.C.

        I have enjoyed playing online poker and other online games for years with my deaf

friends at home and at tournaments hosted by the National Deaf Poker Tournament

(NDPT) at Atlantic City, NJ.  I was asked by a group of Deaf poker players to come and

share with you our experiences playing at casinos and online games.

       Before NDPT was found and while I lived in Philadelphia before I moved here, I used to

go to Atlantic City to play games alone or with a few deaf friends. I don’t go there

anymore except for NDPT tournaments, which are held twice every year in March and

November. When I discovered and tried out online games, I like it much better for many

different reasons, in addition to the reasons you may have seen mentioned anywhere in


        Online games gives more various solutions as well as equal access to different groups of

people like deaf people, hard of hearing people, deaf blind people as well as foreigners

who cannot understand English in live games. There were many misunderstandings that

happened to us, deaf and hard of hearing people at live games because many of us were

not able to solve or express our concerns. I know some deaf blind people who prefer

online games better because they do not have to depend on others for communication or


        My deaf friends and I have experienced discrimination or barriers many times at various

casinos. For instance, hearing people who were friends together could play together at

cash tables but my Deaf friends and I could not play together sometimes at the same table because dealers were “concerned” thinking that we could cheat because we could

communicate in sign language that was unfamiliar to them and hearing players. This kind

of barrier is not unique to deaf and hard of hearing players, as some foreigners might

experience similar communication barriers or discrimination due to language differences.

           The other main reason why I like online games especially poker is that I can see typed

announcements and chat with other players in chat boxes. I can choose which games I

want to play online while at casinos, I missed many last-minute announcements over

loudspeakers and could not play games that I wanted to play. I also missed my name

being called when I waited for an open seat at the table of my choice. I could not follow

the conversation or discussions over rules that occur frequently at the tables. The

dealers and hearing players become impatient or aggravated when a deaf player like

myself misunderstands certain verbal instructions. I have been accused for causing

these problems a few times and as a result, I either do poorly in the game or was forced

to leave the table before the game was over. When things go well as they rarely do, it is

mostly because dealers, waitresses, casino workers and other players are aware of the

communication barriers that Deaf and hard of hearing players face every day.

         The third and last reason is that the buy-in fees at cash tables in the casinos sometimes

got increased to $10 or more and schedules were announced over the loudspeakers with

no written information that it became impossible to find a table where I could play for five

dollars or less. It would cost me much more money to go out to casinos than playing

online. I tend to spend up to 100 dollars per month online or at casinos depending on

how many dollars I have available to play with.

         I strongly support local government-run online games because they can collect revenues and

provide solutions that we all need in our local communities.

I hope you will put these under your consideration and let us play online. Thank you for hearing me out. 

FROM WARD 6 COMMUNITY MEETING - NOVEMBER 20 - 6:30pm-8:30 - Eastern Market - North Hall