Washington, D.C., sports betting bill cleared another significant hurdle on Tuesday as councilmembers progressed it with a few changes.
Introduced by Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 passed by a 10-2 vote.
The bill is scheduled for its second reading in two weeks.
No switch to multiple operators
The bill, B22-0944, passed despite efforts from Councilmember Robert White to alter the number of licensed operators.
The highly debated amendment to the D.C. sports betting bill, which failed on a 7-5 vote, would have permitted five sports betting licenses instead of the single-operator model favoring the lottery proposed by Evans. Evans' ties to the lottery are under scrutiny.
White's amendment also would have required that at least 35 percent of the net profits of sports betting licenses in the district go to minority women and locally owned businesses (CBE). According to White, it also would have created five operator licenses for mobile sports betting, reserving one for a joint venture with a CBE, where a CBE has a majority interest.
Lottery gets preference in D.C. sports betting bill
According to Evans, the district would benefit from a single operator like the lottery, rather than multiple operators.
Just recently, Intralot, a Greek gaming company that serves as the lottery supplier in DC, told stakeholders it could produce revenue up to 30 times greater than a traditional open model. Those claims appear dubious.
Evans plans to leave language in the D.C. sports betting bill allowing a switch to multiple operators if the single format does not prove as lucrative.
Chairman Phil Mendelson urged council members not to vote for the amendment.
More from Mendelson:
“I would urge members not to vote for this amendment. We are going to revisit this again on second reading. There are two fundamental issues with this amendment and the one that’s being spoken about over and over is the emphasis on CBE’s. …
The other piece — going from one mobile app that goes through the lottery or having the private sector with up to five mobile apps. It sounds great to do a private market, but the CFO was very clear. That (model) would not be a benefit as those lobbyists have argued.”
The NBA, MLB and PGA Tour, along with MGM Resorts, DraftKings and FanDuel have formed an “alliance” to pitch for a private market featuring a version of the integrity fee.
“The way the bill is written, if it looks like the single app isn’t working, we can convert to the five. But we can’t do it the other way around. If we commit now to five (operators) we won’t be able to put that genie back in the bottle,” Mendelson said.
Only four sports venues approved for betting
The bill passed with an additional amendment added to it courtesy of Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen.
Allen’s amendment removes RFK Stadium from the list of major sports venues slated to have onsite sportsbooks. Though viewed by some as a minor provision, eliminating RFK could have significant implications in the future.
According to Allen, since sports betting would be illegal on federal land, it is not necessary to include RFK Stadium.
While the stadium, located a few miles from the nation’s capital, is no longer home to any major sports teams, there have been talks about renovations and upgrades to the property.
A major component of Evans’ bill was a sportsbook located inside five major venues:
- Capital One Arena
- FedEx Field
- Audi Field
- Nationals Park
- RFK Stadium
Ultimately, Allen’s amendment passed by a 7-5 vote.
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