DC Sports Betting Decision Delayed Amid Contracting Monopoly Concerns

Posted on: January 10, 2019, 10:55h. 

Last updated on: January 10, 2019, 01:16h.

Sports betting is coming to Washington DC, but it’ll have to wait after council members postponed a key decision which would have seen them fast track the process.

dc sports betting
Phil Mendelson pulled his emergency sports betting legislation at the last minute. (Image: WAMU Radio)

On Tuesday, councilors were on the verge of voting to award the contract to operate its sports betting venture. The problem – at least for some – is that decision would have seen them bypassing the procurement process, and simply awarding the lucrative contract to the sole bidder instead.

That bidder is Intralot, a Greek-based company which has been running DC’s lottery for the last 10 years. But at the last minute, councilors balked and backed out the the vote.

Intralot facts:

  • Annual Wagers: $27.6B
  • Revenue: $1.27B
  • Betting Terminals: 300,000
  • Global Imprint: 87 contracts in 29 countries

Making a Monopoly?

Council member David Grosso was among those against the idea of handing out such a key contract without at least shopping around first.

“It’s creating a monopoly, rather than an opportunity,” Grosso told NBC News in Washington. “It’s a complete disregard of all our attempts to reform our contracting.”

Council chairman Phil Mendelson was set to introduce the emergency measure at this week’s meeting before pulling the bill.

“It’s not sole sourcing,” Mendelson said to NBC in defense of his bill. “We are voting to extend the contract.”

Except they’re are not voting — at least, not this week.

Other councilors say they want to allow some time for the public to have input, even if it means pushing back legislation, thus delaying significant gaming revenue.

“We would lose some months,” councilor Mary Cheh told the Washington Post, “but we would at least have it out there in the open and have a hearing.”

Burning Money

Going purely by the numbers, it’s likely in the betting public’s best interest that its councilors do shop around.

They passed the sports betting legislation on December 19, and at the time, it was assumed that the gaming contract would go to Intralot.

However, the company’s model would be difficult for anyone with designs on turning a profit by betting on sports in DC. Unlike Las Vegas, whose sports books retain about five percent of the money bet, Intralot’s DC model would see it withholding 20 to 30 percent of the total handle.

That means a lot more vig (the fees charged to make a bet) for the customer, greatly reducing the chances of ever making a profit.

The American Gaming Association’s Sara Slane previously noted that her organization was “deeply concerned about giving the lottery a virtual monopoly.”

Councilman Mendelson has agreed to pull his emergency bill and re-introduce it via standard legislative measures.