D.C. Sports Betting Deal is Swirling in Controversy
Somehow the notion of having legalized sports betting in this nation’s capital sounds pretty strange. But remember, the federal law against it (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) has been struck down, and in the mad rush for locales to enact legislation, perhaps it makes perfect sense for the federal district to follow suit.
Well, pretty soon the District of Columbia is going to see it. And when we say “mad rush,” we mean it, as they are racing to beat Maryland and Virginia to the money.
Why Is This Washington D.C. Sports Betting Deal Swirling in Controversy?
Actually, the law to enable it has passed. But now there is an agreement, recently voted on by the D.C. Council, that brings an official vendor to the table.
And not everybody is happy about it. In fact, quite the opposite.
For one thing, the 7-5 tally approved a sole-source, no-bid contract. So what does that mean? Well, it means that it was awarded to one company and one company only, and without any competitive bidding process. And according to the city officials who have advocated for the eventual result, this solution was most desirable, giving the city the best possible return in the end.
The company that got the $215 million deal is Intralot, a Greek-based outfit that has brought a lot of controversy to the table with it. This is not just a matter of certain conflicts of interest between the company and the elected officials that pushed the arrangement through, but also the nature of the proposal itself.
The legislator who was most aggressive in bringing the deal to Intralot was Jack Evans, a council member who is not only well-connected politically, but also connected, it seems, to Intralot itself.
Evans is at the center of a literal and legal quagmire at the moment. There is a federal probe into alleged corruption on his part, and on Friday the D.C. Council voted to strip him of his position as chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee, and they have hired a law firm to investigate any misconduct that involved him in his elected position.
FBI Raid On Georgetown Home
There is also a federal probe into his activities (which included an FBI raid on his Georgetown home) in which he may have used his public position for private gain. At the center of this investigation is a relationship in which Evans sponsored a bill to benefit a company called DigiMedia, then was later discovered to have received consulting fees and stock in the company.
He is also suspected of having a rather nefarious relationship with a lobbyist from Intralot, which his critics believe “greased the wheels” for this hasty vote on the no-bid contract.
It is important to note that Intralot will not be opening a sportsbook, but instead offering a “sports lottery” product that is similar to what has been offered in others states and Canada. It will be accessible through an app and a website. Intralot already operates the D.C. Lottery.
Is Real Money Gambling In D.C Unrealistic?
There are many who doubt Intralot’s claims as to what they will “hold” out of the sports betting revenues they are going to generate, which of course impacts what they will give to the district. Words like “unrealistic” and “faulty” are being used often to describe their estimates. And there is fear that if Intralot did indeed launch a product that remotely approached the forecast, it had no hope of being fair to sports bettors.
Ted Leonsis, the forward-thinking owner of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, is jumping right into sports betting, to the extent where he is going to be hosting a sportsbook at his venue, the Capital One Arena. Nats Park and Audi Field will also likely have sports betting establishments. Intralot is not going to be a part of the deal for those places, however. And the legislation expressly forbids betting on colleges that are based in the District of Columbia, such as Georgetown, George Washington, and American University.