Council members — battered by public concerns about transparency — said they will consider future legislation that would allow residents and visitors to bet money on online games of chance.
But Tuesday’s vote, which occurred months before the games were to start, means it will probably be years before the District and Congress agree to authorize Internet gambling in the District.
“I want to make sure we get the best deal for the city,” said council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who sponsored the repeal effort. “I believe it should be set up so the city gets the best price and the best revenue.”
Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At large), the chief proponent of online gaming in the District, said the council’s decision means a loss of tens of millions of dollars in revenue and will criminalize city residents who turn to the Internet to gamble.
“It’s the residents who lose, including residents who play every day now and will be left unprotected,” Brown said.
The council’s action came on the same day that members unanimously agreed to impose a moratorium on adult entertainment in Northeast Washington, reviving a debate about where strip clubs should be located.
When Internet gambling was approved, supporters were optimistic that they had avoided a similar cultural divide, which torpedoed proposals to legalize slot machines in the District nearly a decade ago.
Internet gaming was quietly added to the city’s lottery contract more than three months after the contract passed a 2009 council vote; it was legalized as part of a 2010 spending bill. Congress, which gets to review all District laws, did not object.
But the new law became entangled in a broader controversy about how the council and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) managed the city’s lottery contract, driving gambling opponents to push for repeal.
In a report last month, city Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby concluded that Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi added Internet gambling to the lottery program without issuing a written notice that the contract requirements had changed and allowing another round of bids from interested companies.
The report also said Brown pursued Internet gambling even though he was working as a lobbyist at a law firm whose clients included members of the gaming industry.
Although Willoughby concluded that Brown did not violate any law, he questioned why the council member did not more broadly disclose the potential public conflict.
“The train crashed, and we need to regroup to slow this down,” said Marie Drissel, a political activist from Kalorama who led the opposition.