31 Mar

Limited Gaming Initiative seeks to Legalize Blackjack and Poker in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C.Where better to seek information on the legality of gambling throughout America than Washington D.C.? All federal laws are written, amended and stored in the US Capitol. Even the American Gaming Association is headquartered here. But one thing you won’t find is any form of legalized gambling outside of charitable bingo games, raffles and lotteries.

That could change if one anonymous corporation gets its way. Little is known about the company behind the latest efforts to legalize a limited amount of gambling – blackjack and poker, to be specific – except that it’s based in Delaware. WAMU 88.9 News has its suspicions, but we’ll talk more about that in a moment.

Limited Gaming Initiative of 2016

According to WAMU.org, the anonymous funder is pushing a petition called the ‘Limited Gaming Initiative of 2016’. The goal of the petition is to get voters interested in approving a very limited variety of gambling amusements, including blackjack and poker. If approved, the corporation wants to turn a triad of properties on the southeast corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd and Good Hope Road into a 9,000 square-foot “gaming facility”.

Ostensibly, the unknown backer of the petition made sure not to call the facility a ‘casino’, since that might imply the installation of slot machines; something the initiative is not seeking to legalize.

In order for the petition to succeed, it must receive 25,000 unique signatures from residents of Washington D.C. who are registered to vote. If enough qualifying signatures are received, the Limited Gaming Initiative of 2016 will appear on the November ballot, where voters will decide if blackjack and poker should be permitted at licensed facilities in the city.

If approved, the operator of the “gaming facility” would pay a usage fee to the city. That fee would be divided equally among three groups; the D.C. Treasury, D.C. Public Schools and the Housing Production Trust Fund, which is used to develop and maintain affordable housing in the area.

Who’s Behind the Limited Gaming Initiative?

The lingering question here is; Who is behind it all? What corporation is funding the initiative, and why? Barry E. Jerrels, listed as Chairperson and Treasurer for the Citizens Committee in Support of the Limited Gaming Initiative of 2016, isn’t talking.

Jerrels, a local political activist and D.C. businessman, spoke with WAMU about the push to legalize blackjack and poker, but refused to comment on who’s behind the Delaware-based corporation, Anacostia Redevelopment, LLC, that put $5,500 worth of funding into the petition.

His only words of wisdom on the subject were, “There’s a consortium that’s ebbed and flowed.”

WAMU has its own suspicions as to who may be looking to bring limited gambling to Washington D.C., based on clues from previous attempts in which Jerrels was involved, and I have to admit, the evidence looks pretty concrete.

“In 2006, Jerrels was the point man for a similar ballot initiative bankrolled by gambling empresario [sic] Shawn A. Scott, who was then based in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” wrote WAMU staffer Martin Austermuhle. “He tried to place a measure on the D.C. ballot that would have allowed him to put video slot machines at the same location in Anacostia being offered up now.”

Scott’s involvement doesn’t bear the best reputation in Washington D.C. According to an article in The Washington Post in June, 2004, Shawn Scott – who currently has a multitude of gaming interests throughout the United States – almost succeeded in getting slot machines on the ballot that year. Instead, he was slapped with a $600,000 fine for allegedly submitting “forged signatures”.

Additionally, WAMU called this new petition a “virtual carbon copy” of the one Jerrels supported in 2006.

What’s more, the Anacostia property where the blackjack and poker tables would be installed is owned by an “LLC registered in Delaware but with its main address in the Northern Mariana Islands — where Scott operates Bridge Capital LLC, an investment firm,” discovered Austermuhle.

Further implicating Scott is his recent link to casino projects in Maine and Massachusetts. He played a key role in the push for a southern Maine casino petition, but as WAMU reported, “the effort fell apart this month amid allegation of forged signatures on petitions.”