Intralot set for DC betting contract after council approval

20 February 2019

Intralot is set to be awarded the contract to operate sports betting on behalf of the DC Lottery after the Washington, DC Council approved an emergency measure to bypass the public procurement process.

The DC Lottery can now start contract negotiations with the Greek betting and gaming solutions provider without the need to open the process to bids from rival suppliers such as International Game Technology (IGT) and Scientific Games.

Without the so-called sole-sourcing tenet, supporters of legal sports betting had warned that it could take three years to complete the tender process, which they claimed would have seen the state miss out on millions in revenue.

Councilmember David Grosso in particular was vocal in his opposition, accusing Intralot’s DC-based subsidiary of only making council campaign contributions in years when its lottery contract was up for renewal. This, which he described as “pay-to-play behaviour”, would be stopped in future by the passage of a campaign finance bill.

“I can’t but help to wonder how different our approach to this matter would be if the campaign finance bill had been passed sooner,” Grosso said.

“This is not an emergency. This is a giveaway,” he said of the emergency measure.

The Councilmember also highlighted the fact that all three potential bidders for the contract had credit ratings from Moody’s that were below investment grade as grounds for voting against legal wagering in DC. He described the move as “a rush to tax the poor”, claiming that evidence suggested gambling addiction was more prevalent in more deprived areas.

Despite Grosso’s vocal objections, the sports betting legislation, which was first introduced by Councilmember Jack Evans in September 2018, and the emergency measure were passed with eight votes in favour. Four Councilmembers - Brianne Nadeau, Robert White, Elissa Silverman and Grosso - voted against the bill. This followed the measure being advanced at the first reading on February 5.

While the bill has quickly moved through the city legislature, it has undergone a series of changes since it was filed in September. Having originally contained an integrity fee for the professional US sports leagues, this element was removed in December, when the bill was passed by the Council.

The emergency tenet also looked set to be removed in January, potentially delaying the implementation of the legislation, only for it to be restored.

While the DC Lottery app would be the only mobile betting platform permitted across almost all of the city, a number of designated facilities, such as the city's major sports arenas, would be able to sign their own partners which would be able to offer their mobile services to customers within a two-block exclusivity zone, inside of which no competition is allowed. Licensed operators will be charged a 10% tax on sports wagering gross revenue.