D.C. Council to Vote Tuesday on Sports Betting Bill Amendments

D.C. Council could vote today on bills that double license fees for sports betting and favor DC Lottery as the preferred provider of wagering services

The District of Columbia Council could vote today on a measure that aims to bring legalized sports betting to the city as quickly as possible by handing the DC Lottery the contract to provide wagering services on the territory of Washington.

The D.C. Council overwhelmingly backed last month a sports betting bill calling for the legalization of the practice within city limits. Under the bill, D.C.’s sports arenas and stadiums as well as local retailers would be able to obtain betting licenses. Approved licensees would be taxed at 10% on betting revenue under the recently approved legislation.

The bill also needs to be approved by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and to be reviewed by the Congress in order to come into effect. Legislative pieces normally have a 30-day review period during which they are either signed or vetoed by the Mayor. However, the Council passed the sports betting bill alongside an emergency measure, which means that the 30-day period does not apply and it is up to Mayor Bowser when and whether she would sign the legislation and the accompanying measure.

The secondary piece could be discussed during today’s meeting of the D.C. Council, according to multiple news outlets. It has also emerged that lawmakers have introduced amendments to the city’s sports betting legalization push that will, too, need to be approved before any further action toward the introduction of wagering is taken.

License Fees and DC Lottery Proposals

Under the original bill, interested sports betting operators were to pay a $250,000 license fee in order to be able to operate in the city. However, the newly introduced amendments propose for the fee to be doubled to $500,000 for licenses for the provision of sports betting at the city’s stadiums and to $100,000 for venues that are located outside exclusivity zones that were outlined in the original version of the bill.

In addition, amendments suggest that discounts be awarded to interested operators that form partnerships with local businesses.

The emergency piece is expected to be voted on during today’s meeting of the Council. Generally speaking, the measure contains provisions that favor the DC Lottery and its provider, Intralot. Under those provisions, Intralot could be allowed to bypass the bidding process for sports gambling and would instead be awarded a license as the preferred provider of this product.

The state purpose of the legislative piece reads:

To exempt, on an emergency basis, the initial procurement used in connection with the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018.

Under the original bill, sports betting would be allowed at physical facilities and through mobile apps. There have been proposals for the DC Lottery to be granted monopoly over the provision of digital betting.

Critics of the idea have said that allowing more operators to provide mobile wagering would be better for revenue. However, City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has said in a memo that the only way for sports betting to go live in D.C. this year would be if the DC Lottery is involved. Otherwise:

…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.

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