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Slot machines won’t be coming to the District anytime soon, now that the D.C. Court of Appeals has stricken down a slots-casino ballot initiative funded by offshore gambling financiers. In its Nov. 22 decision, the appeals court agreed with D.C. Watch Executive Director Dorothy Brizill, who argued before the court in September as part of a citizen-led anti-gambling group. If approved by D.C. voters, the initiative would have required the licensing of a slot-machine casino in an impoverished section of historic Anacostia. The three-judge appeals panel, which reversed D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin, found the initiative was invalid because it “would be an attempt to repeal or amend an Act of Congress which does not apply exclusively to the District.” Approved by Congress in 1951, the Johnson Act makes it unlawful to manufacture, possess, or use any gambling device within the District. Atlantic Northstar, a U.S. Virgin Islands company operated by financiers Shawn Scott and John Baldwin, spent more than $370,000 financing the ballot initiative, even though a similar failed effort in 2004 ended with a record-setting $622,880 fine from the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics for violations. Backers of the new initiative planned to submit petition signatures in December in order to place the initiative on the 2008 ballot, but the appellate decision may make that petition drive moot. Brizill couldn’t be reached for comment. Attorney Jeffrey Robinson, who argued in favor of the initiative, said he couldn’t comment on the decision — or whether he will ask for a rehearing en banc — because he hadn’t yet seen it.
Brendan Smith can be contacted at [email protected].

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