In a move that comes as no surprise, the D.C. Council on Tuesday morning voted to pass legislation that will give a monopoly to current lottery vendor Intralot for mobile sports betting. Three Council members have been consistently opposed to skipping the bid process for a mobile sports betting operator, and they voiced concern, but the full Council voted decisively to pass Bill 23-25.
The Council also voted in favor of two emergency measures that would allow the city’s Lottery to begin negotiations with Intralot as soon as Mayor Muriel Bowser signs the bill, but before it gets Congressional approval. (All new D.C. laws require Congressional approval.)
Bill 23-25, and sports betting in general, has been a contentious issue on the Council. Both appear to have been pushed through by some of the Council’s most powerful members, but the opposition has been vocal. On Tuesday, At-Large Council Member David Grosso added to his list of reasons why Intralot should not be granted the contract, saying that the company had recently made significant contributions to Council member campaign funds, and that he doesn’t view either the legalization of sports betting or the awarding of a contract as an emergency.
‘It is not an emergency. It is a giveaway.’
“We previously noted the downgrade of Intralot’s Moody’s bond rating,” Grosso said. “That should be enough to show that there is no emergency here … the only emergency is for Intralot.
“I will vote against this. It is not an emergency. It is a giveaway.”
The DC Council this morning passed 8-4 on final reading a bill for sports betting in the city, using Intralot, the same gaming contractor the city uses for the DC Lottery. Opponents lead by Councilmember Grosso called the bill “a tax on the poor.” Grosso and 3 others voted No. pic.twitter.com/Xm5Smn4w6K
— Sam Ford (@ABC7Sam) February 19, 2019
Grosso has consistently argued that sports betting is yet another tax on the poor in D.C., while Council Member Elissa Silverman has been vocal in her opposition of sole-sourcing the mobile contract because she believes the city could get a better deal by putting out an RFP or splitting the sports betting contract from the overall lottery contract. But as with all the votes before this one, their arguments fell on deaf ears, as the Council is in a rush to launch sports betting and secure its position as a “first mover” in the region.
D.C. wants to beat the competition
A constant concern throughout the legalization process has been what D.C. stands to lose by not capitalizing on bringing sports betting to market as quickly as possible. The city’s chief financial officer said it would take a minimum of 27 months to secure an operator contract if the city chose to put out a request for proposal, and that during that time, the District would lose $60.9 million.
The rush is apparently to beat out neighbors Virginia and Maryland. But neither state appears poised to legalize sports betting.
In fact, Virginia’s legislature has a short session that ends on Saturday, and, to date, it’s held informational hearings on sports betting, but no bills have been moved to the floor of either chamber.
In Maryland, while lawmakers may have found a way around needing voter approval to legalize sports betting, the new bill is in its infancy. HB 1132 was introduced Feb. 8 and is set for its first hearing March 6 before the House Ways and Means Committee. Maryland’s general assembly adjourns its regular session on April 8.
West Virginia and Delaware, both easy driving distance from the District, were among the first states to legalize sports betting after the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May.
With the decision to skip the bid process, D.C. could launch mobile sports betting through the Lottery in time for football season.