It was a path strewn with controversies, but Washington DC is finally on the brink of legally licensed sports betting. The District’s Office of Lottery and Gaming said Wednesday that the licensing process would begin next Tuesday, December 3.
The Lottery said it expects to take 30 to 45 days to review the initial applications and begin approving licenses for operators, management service providers, and suppliers.
While the District handed the monopoly on citywide mobile sports betting to its Greek lottery operator, Intralot, licenses are also available for mobile and land-based wagering in up to four sports arenas, as well for as any venue that wishes to offer retail betting, provided sports betting is not its main business.
This last category of licensee, which will include bars and restaurants, will also be permitted to offer mobile betting, provided it does not extend beyond the walls of the venue.
Of DC’s stadiums, the Capital One Arena will be first in the line. Its owner, Monumental Sports & Entertainment — the group that owns the NBA Washington Wizards and NHL Washington Capitals — partnered with William Hill in October to bring sports betting to the arena.
And venues that partner with a sports betting provider that is licensed elsewhere in the US, such as William Hill, could begin operations early under a provisional license while their main application is being processed.
The Lottery hoped to launch the Intralot mobile app in January. But a spokesperson said Wednesday the outlook has been revised to “sometime during the first quarter of 2020.”
The app’s development was temporarily halted by a judicial injunction after a lawsuit challenged the Intralot contract. The suit was based on the grounds that it was awarded without the customary procurement procedure.
Plaintiff Dylan Carragher, a district resident who owns esports betting website eSportsbets.gg, claims the decision prevented him and others from pursuing the sports betting contract themselves.
While the case is pending, a judge agreed to lift the injunction in October so that work on the app could resume.
But another impediment to the app’s timely completion is the geolocation challenge presented by the district’s sports betting laws, which are like nothing else in America.
The app will be available for use anywhere in DC except on federally owned land — of which there is a lot (18 square miles). It will also be barred within two blocks of any arena that is licensed for sports betting. This creates a geolocation minefield for Intralot.
And meanwhile, the whiff of impropriety still lingers over the entire process. Earlier this month, there were calls for the man who spearheaded the legislative push for sports betting, DC Councilman Jack Evans, to step down over the findings of an independent ethics report.
The report concluded that on numerous occasions, Evan’s actions as a councilman had benefited his private business clients without his public acknowledgement of the relationships.
Evans is currently under investigation by the FBI for reasons that are under seal.