The Executive Director of DC Lottery, Beth Bresnahan, has confirmed that the District of Columbia is on track to launch sports betting before the start of the 2019 NFL season which begins on Sept. 5.
The District legalized sports betting through the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018, which was approved by the District’s Council in December 2018. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the bill into law in January, making DC the ninth precinct to legalize sports betting post-PAPSA.
The Capital’s sports wagering law allows residents of the District to place single bets on sporting events at retail sportsbooks or via mobile devices. The Act permits four venues to apply for sports betting licenses, and they include Audi Field, Capital One Arena, Nationals Park, and St. Elizabeth East Entertainment and Sports Arena.
According to the statement issued by the DC Lottery Executive Director, onsite wagering at the authorized venues will kick off first with mobile betting coming later.
Fate of DC mobile sports betting currently unknown
The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 gives DC Lottery the monopoly to conduct mobile sports wagering operations in the District. However, the timeline for the launch of online sports betting in the jurisdiction is yet to be determined since policymakers have not decided whether to award the mobile wagering contract to the current Lottery provider.
The Lottery officials had agreed to award the $215 million deal to their current software provider, Intralot, but legislators have raised concerns over the ability of the Greece-based gaming company to deliver the contract.
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On Wednesday, the DC Council Committee of the Whole held a public hearing to discuss the procurement deal which covers sports betting and lottery sales for five years.
During the meeting, Council members raised various issues regarding the partnership, with one of their main concerns being the financial stability of the provider.
The company’s rating has been downgraded by three major credit bureaus over the past year, and the lawmakers sought to find out why the Lottery intended to award a nine-figure deal to the struggling operator.
According to the legislators, the amount proposed in the deal is well above competitive rates. Besides, the contract was not awarded through a competitive bidding process like other government deals.
However, Lottery officials, including the Executive Director, defended the partnership saying that their agreement with the provider was fair and competitive. The Director also added that holding an open bidding process would delay the rollout of mobile sports betting for 18 to 24 months, while their partner could deliver a new sports betting app by Jan. 1, 2020.
The scandal surrounding the DC Sports betting contract
There have been several concerns about the sole-source system since the beginning of the year, with members of the public and some legislators reading political interference and conflict of interest in the deal.
The model was proposed by Council Member Jack Evans, who is the Chairman of Finance and Revenue. The lawmaker has been accused of using his influence in the Council for personal gain, poking holes into his suitability as a legislator.
Besides the ethical question regarding Evans, some Council members have also noted that the DC sports betting contract involves very well-connected businesspeople, all of whom have ties to City Hall.
Following these concerns, the Council is now faced with the task of deciding whether to implement mobile sports betting with the current provider or delay the launch as they look for another operator. The verdict will be out next month.