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

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