On Tuesday, February 6, the D.C. Council voted to approve a measure that will allow it to bypass a bidding process in finding a sports betting vendor. The result of the measure would extend the contract of Intralot, the current vendor for the D.C. Lottery.

With a narrow victory of 7-6 to pass Bill 23-25, known as the “Sports Wagering Procurement Practices Reform Exemption Act of 2019,” the measure would make Intralot the sports betting vendor for D.C. with no competition.

Much Going On

The Lottery should be able to get sports betting operational in the District of Columbia within six months of signing a new contract with Intralot, as opposed to having to wait over two years with the open-bid process of deciding a sports betting vendor. Assuming no delays in negotiations, officials expect to launch by September 1.

Whenever the D.C. Lottery’s online sports betting platform becomes operational, which will be run by Intralot, it will be the only legal sportsbook District-wide. The only exceptions will be sports venue-based sportsbooks, which will only be on-premises and within a two-block exclusivity zone of the stadiums.

“Bill 23-25 Met With Opposition”

At-Large Council Member Elissa Silverman voiced her concerns about sole-sourcing the lottery contract. Silverman said, “I think we are rushing this process unnecessarily. I think there is another way to do this without sole-sourcing the underlying lottery contract. We’re not only getting into the sports betting business, we are modernizing our lottery. I think there are both good governmental and practical purposes to separate these contracts.”

Silverman isn’t the only one opposed to the potential Intralot monopoly. After the vote, iDEA Growth’s John Pappas said in a statement, “The D.C. Council’s vote today to sole source the entire lottery and sports wagering contract hinders competition and transparency within the district. By voting to establish a monopoly — that cannot be challenged — the D.C. Council has stripped away any opportunity for healthy competition and oversight in the sports betting market. This action erodes public trust in the process and strengthens illegal offshore websites.”

The bill narrowly avoided a committee stop last week, advancing to the floor by a one-vote margin as well. Now that the bill has been approved on the first reading, it will be scheduled for a second reading and vote, most likely later in February.