The chair of the Washington D.C. Council wants to bypass competitive bidding on DC sports betting, a move that favors the district’s lottery provider.
Legal Sports Report this week obtained a draft bill that essentially would give DC Lottery provider Intralot the contract to operate sports betting in the district. The stated purpose of the bill is:
To exempt, on an emergency basis, the initial procurement used in connection with the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018.
The bill could be considered at the council’s Jan. 8 meeting.
Chair pitches end-around on DC sports betting
D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson also sent a memo to the council explaining the bill is submitted on behalf of CFO Jeff DeWitt.
During council deliberation on the DC sports betting bill, DeWitt favored the single-operator model ultimately passed. DeWitt appeared to support a questionable Intralot-backed study that exaggerates potential revenue from a single-operator model.
The memo paints a dire picture of what will happen without the supplementary bill:
This emergency legislation is necessary to allow DC Lottery to obtain the technology platforms, lottery gaming systems, and related services to launch sports betting in the District in fiscal year 2019.
Without this emergency legislation, the Office of Chief Financial Officer will have to go through a prolonged procurement process that could delay the implementation of sports wagering in the District by as many as three years, foregoing revenue and eliminating the advantages of being an early adopter of legalized sports wagering.
The sources indicate to LSR that this move would be highly unorthodox and a change from expectations set by the council during consideration of the bill.
The mayor has yet to decide on bills
The council approved bills nearly three weeks ago legalizing DC sports betting and temporarily suspending required Congressional review.
Mayor Muriel Bowser has not signed or vetoed the bills yet, and her spokespeople did not return a request for comment earlier this week.
Bills passed by the DC Council typically must undergo a 30-day review period by Congress (60 days for fiscal bills.) The emergency measure passed in tandem with the sports betting bill. This measure would give the district three months to operate before that review period kicks in.
A bit of background
The idea of DC sports betting came together rather quickly in 2018.
Legislators held an October hearing at which operators and stakeholders weighed in on the first version of Councilman Jack Evans‘ bill. Evans first proposed the bill in September.
By late November, a new version appeared with an integrity fee for pro sports leagues. By the following week, the council voted to strip that piece from the bill despite lobbying in favor by a surprising operator-league tag team.