DC Sports Betting Regulators Tell Council They Could Have Product Live In Early 2019

DC sports betting

If Washington, D.C. residents are hungry for sports betting, district regulators say it can be running four months after a bill is passed.

The Committee of Finance and Revenue heard testimony Wednesday from several gambling stakeholders including representative from MGM Resorts InternationalNBA, FanDuel and DraftKings.

Beth Bresnahan, executive director of the lottery, said it would take four to six months to start sports betting once a law is in place.

DC sports betting game plan

The hearing was scheduled to review the “Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018,” authored by Councilmember Jack Evans. It would permit sports wagering at licensed establishments around the district as early as next year.

A spokesman for Evans said if everything goes as planned, the bill could be on the mayor’s desk by Thanksgiving. Any DC bill signed by the mayor must go to Congress for a 30-day review.

If a disapproval resolution is passed by the House and Senate, then the DC bill is overturned, unless the resolution is vetoed by the president. However, if a bill goes to the House and is not acted upon in 30 days, then the bill is enacted.

What the industry is saying

Councilmembers heard from 15 witnesses on potential sports betting models, licensing structures and integrity monitoring over the course of two hours.

FanDuel and DraftKings voiced their support for Bill 22-944, and were on board with a model that permitted multiple operators.

“The district is in a position to break new ground,” said Christian Genetski, chief legal officer for FanDuel.

Genetski was referring to the fact that traditional sportsbooks operate out of a physical brick-and-mortar casino. DC has no casinos, so Evans has proposed that sportsbooks be located at the five major sports arenas, as well as bars, restaurants and hotels.

Shane August, president and CEO of August Holding Corporation, expressed support for allowing small operators to enter the sports betting market.

“The FanDuels and DraftKings of the world sign exclusive contracts with big casinos,” August said. “Other places don’t allow for smaller groups to compete.”

“If this bill passes, our application will be first on the desk,” he said.

Jeff Ifrah, founding member of iDEA said lawmakers should not limit their options to just sports betting but also look to expand into other areas like online slots and poker.

“The most effective state legislation will provide for the triumvirate; sports, poker and casino games,” Ifrah wrote in his testimony.

Ifrah said mobile gaming increases a casino’s audience base resulting in new streams of revenue from younger, “tech savvy gamers who expect to bet from their phones.”

Other major hurdles and next steps

Several other topics during the hearing were responsible gaming practices, revenue disbursement and the NBA’s continued pursuit for an integrity fee.

Scott Butera, president of MGM’s Interactive Division also said they prefer high stability standards for licensees.

“Market operations have to work for regulators and operators,” Butera said.

The DC council plans on keeping the public testimony period open until November 1. The bill would need to clear two committee votes before being sent to the mayor’s desk.

Nicholaus Garcia
- Nick comes from West Texas where he graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in psychology. After a five-year stint in Chicago, where he wrote about local politics and graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, he moved to Washington, D.C. to write about issues related to gambling policy, sports betting and responsible gaming.