The District of Columbia stands on the cusp of legal sports betting, with DC Council expected to pass a bill regulating the market on Tuesday.
But despite the best efforts of an unlikely lobbying alliance of operators and sports leagues, the DC sports betting bill favors a single-operator model and would hand the monopoly for all wagering within the district to its lottery operator, Intralot.
The bill’s sponsor, Councilman Jack Evans, has said he wants to go with the monopoly because he believes it will bring in more money for the district. According to documents seen by LegalSportsReport, Intralot has claimed that it would generate up to 30 times more for the state than an open model could.
DC Sports Betting Bad Deal for Bettors
But Intralot’s calculations are based on a high-hold model in which it would retain 20 to 30 percent of all wagers, rather than the roughly five percent of Las Vegas and other newly regulated markets.
This model is not competitive and will offer bad odds to bettors. That might not normally be a problem in a monopoly, until you consider Evans has expressly said he wants the DC market to compete with the casinos of West Virginia, Maryland, and others — as well as the black markets.
Virginia — like DC a casinos-less state — is also looking at legalizing sports betting, and so may soon have a golden opportunity to capture DC’s market. Evans claims there is value in DC having first-mover advantage on its neighbors, but that means little to bettors when there is a competing market next door that can offer better odds.
Moreover, LegalSportsReports suggests that Intralot’s projections are disingenuous — even when they’re adjusted for the souped-up vig — because they contain no outlay for marketing expenditure. That’s something that should send alarm bells ringing in the ears of DC’s esteemed councilmembers.
Evans is currently under investigation by DC’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) for alleged links to a lobbying firm that counts among its clients a company called DC09, a local outfit that installs and maintains lottery terminals and communication lines.
On Tuesday, the DC Council will hear a second reading of the bill, and so there is — at least theoretically — scope for a change in its direction. Meanwhile, the language of the bill allows for the possibility of moving to an open-market model in the future if the Intralot partnership does not prove to be successful.
As all DC bills, this one will have to be signed off by the mayor and then ratified by Congress — a process which could take 60 days. But an emergency measure is also on Tuesday’s agenda which would make the bill become law almost immediately.