WASHINGTON – Opponents of a casino proposed for the nation's capital won a big victory Tuesday when a three-member federal appeals court panel upheld the city election board's decision to remove the casino initiative from November's ballot.
Supporters had wanted to put more than 3,000 video lottery terminals in a facility to have been built in a rundown area about three miles northeast of the Capitol Hill. Lawyers for the project still could ask the full nine-member Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (search) Circuit to overturn Tuesday's ruling by the three-judge panel.
Telephone calls to the lawyers and other proponents were not returned.
A spokesman for the elections board said ballots for the Nov. 2 general election were submitted for printing Tuesday. The election guide sanctioned by the elections board will be printed Friday.
If the case were appealed and five members full court voted to overturn it, proponents could seek an order to authorize reprinting of the ballots.
The casino initiative had been challenged by Dorothy Brizill, who runs the government reform group D.C. Watch (search), and lawyer Ronald Drake. After a series of public hearings, the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics ruled Aug. 5 that the methods used to collect the signatures and promote the initiative violated local regulations.
Board chairwoman Wilma A. Lewis, a former U.S. attorney, said then that supporters "turned the law of the District of Columbia on its head" by using nonresidents to gather signatures and false advertising to dupe people into signing petitions.
"They tried to word the initiative to fool people into thinking it was going to be about jobs and health care and education," said Brizill. "Whether it was slots or donkey races, we couldn't have these kinds of violations of our election laws."
Most of the D.C. Council's 13 members oppose the casino, as does Mayor Anthony A. Williams (search), who praised the ruling and added: "I think the matter should just rest."
Neighborhood groups have long complained about drug trafficking and prostitution near the 14-acre site proposed for the casino, which would not have table games or traditional slot machines.