After several weeks of consideration, the District of Columbia’s mayor has put her signature on a sports betting bill. It’s a major development in the timeline for the latest U.S. jurisdiction to seek regulation.
Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, signed the legislation on Wednesday, moving D.C. sports betting one step closer to reality. The legislation now advances to the U.S. Congress for review, as is customary.
The D.C. City Council passed the legislation late last year.
UPDATE: DC Mayor signs #SportsBetting bill. The bill has a 60-day congressional review period before it is officially law. https://t.co/irfDSyCDkV
— Kristal Rovira (@KristalRovira) January 23, 2019
D.C. officials could launch sports betting during the 60-day window.
Under the D.C. plan, online/mobile betting would be allowed.
Hurdles still remain
On Monday, D.C. officials will meet to try to sort out a major detail — who can offer online/mobile sports betting outside the exclusivity zones for the sports stadiums? Handing over sports betting to Intralot, through the D.C. Lottery, without a competitive bidding process has been floated. The public is encouraged to attend the high-stakes hearing.
The D.C. Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act has so far created more headache than excitement. The sports betting bill marks D.C.’s second attempt at online gambling, as it repealed an online gaming law in 2012.
Proponents of the plan to give a virtual online/mobile monopoly to Intralot without a competitive bidding process reportedly believe it would allow D.C. to launch much more quickly, which, in their view, would be better than taking the time to find a cheaper sports betting partner.
The stakes are high for sports bettors because the end result could be less attractive lines/odds.
BREAKING: DC Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, January 28th, at 10:00 am, on whether to exempt the lottery’s selection of a sports betting vendor from the district’s public procurement law. Hearing notice: https://t.co/insQWK9rxX pic.twitter.com/9cwW8g8r2p
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) January 12, 2019
Later this month the D.C. Council will hold a hearing on a bill that would give the operator of the D.C. Lottery a sole source contract to operate the mobile/app-based platform for sports betting. The bill would fully skip the usual procurement process for a lucrative business.
— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) January 15, 2019
The debate surrounding the operator has place increased scrutiny on D.C.’s sports betting plans.
As councilmembers decided how to establish sports betting, connected lobbyists swarmed the Wilson Building.https://t.co/TnDOyIBi69
— Washington City Paper (@wcp) January 24, 2019
The D.C.-based American Gaming Association isn’t too thrilled with what’s happening in D.C.
“While the vote today [Dec. 18] is progress, we remain deeply concerned about giving the lottery a virtual monopoly in the mobile market,” the AGA said in a statement last year. “Predictably, this will result in less investment and innovation, to the detriment of consumers and the ability of a nascent legal marketplace to compete with the accessibility and convenience offered by many established illegal wagering operations.”
The situation remains a fluid one. Check back here and SportsHandle.com early next week for the latest.
D.C. is one of a slew of jurisdictions looking to launch sports betting this year.