Mayor of Washington DC Approves Sports Betting Bill

Back on December 4th, last year, Councilman Jack Evans brought in the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act, and this has recently been approved buy the Mayor of Washington DC.
Under the bill (which allows sports betting in Washington DC), there will be a 10% tax on gross sports betting revenues. The City Council were quick to approve the bill, voting it through by 11-2, and the bill sets out how it will all work.
Operators who want to offer sports betting services will need to apply for a license. This is said to cost $500,000 for sports arenas, and $100,000 for non-arenas.
Operators who work alongside other local businesses will receive a discount on the license fee – but it’s not yet clear what this discount will be, and how much it will be worth. The bill also mentioned that some other sporting venues, and private establishes (including certain restaurants/bars and liquor stores) will be eligible to apply for licenses, although the costings for these licenses have not yet been set out.
Interestingly, however, the only operator of sportsbooks in the entire district, will be the DC Lottery. This has caused criticism, especially as they will NOT have to go through the licensing process – meaning the application fee will also be waived.
When the bill was first put to Mayor Muriel Bowser, she was expected to sign it quickly. To the annoyment of operators, however, she failed to add her signature to the bill within 30-days, and because of this, the bill had to be passed through as an emergency measure. This meant that there was no set period of time that the bill needed to be reviewed in, and the Mayor had the sole discretion of whether she wanted to sign it or not.
There was another hitch on January 8th, at the DC Council meeting. Originally, the first sportsbooks were due to be operational (accepting wagers from players) by July 1st, 2019, but while the Mayor was deliberating on the issue, an amendment was made to the bill.
This amendment changed a few things. Firstly, it changed the license fees. Although the new fee schedule is yet to be published, it’s clear that this will come at a cost to operators. By the end of the meeting, the City Council had decide that it no longer is looking to prioritize the legalization of sports betting – something that will anger those who’ve campaigned and worked for this for so long, up until now.
As of now, the Council hasn’t given any kind of indication as to why it reached this decision, but because of the delay, it’s now seen as a normal legislative measure, so there will need to be a public hearing now. This may not turn out to be a bad thing, however, as there are many that oppose the DC Lottery being the sole operator of sports betting. Critics have pointed at the fact that giving just one company the right to accept sports wagers would likely create a monopoly, and subsequently a lack of competition.
This would also likely have a knock-on effect to the customers, who would then receive less value on their wagers. This would be down to the DC Lottery not having any other company to compete with, thus not needing to offer as competitive prices and odds.

Finally, The Bill Moves In The Right Direction

Thankfully, however, despite all the issues we’ve just covered, on the 23rd January 2019, Mayor Bowser finally decide to sign the bill, and it’s now set to go before Congress for a customary 60-day review period. Once it passes this review, the bill will officially become law, and punters in Washington DC will finally be legally allowed to place sports wagers.
The bill also proposes legalizing online and mobile betting. On the 28th January 2019 a meeting is scheduled to take place, where the legality of online sports betting will be discussed. The meeting will also look at whether or not online sports betting should only be allowed within the exclusivity zone of the sporting arenas which will hold gambling licenses, as discussed earlier in this post.
The 28th January hearing is set to be public, and experts have hinted that if there isn’t any competitive bidding process, sports betting would be legalized and ‘up and running’ far-quicker. However, again, this may not suit the consumer, so it remains to be seen as to whether or not this will pass.
One body who are not happy with the idea of a sole operator system is the American Gaming Association (AGA). Their headquarters is based in Washington DC, and they’ve made it very clear that they venomously opposed the sole-operator idea:
“While the vote today [Dec. 18] is progress, we remain deeply concerned about giving the lottery a virtual monopoly in the mobile market. Predictably, this will result in less investment and innovation, to the detriment of consumers and the ability of a nascent legal marketplace to compete with the accessibility and convenience offered by many established illegal wagering operations.”
Thankfully, it’s not going to be long before a decision is made either way, and the meeting on the 28th will put an end to the fiasco that has gone on for the last few months. Whether or not an arrangement can be made that suits all parties remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the wheels are, at least, in motion when it comes to legalizing sports betting – so it’s just a waiting game now, to see the end result!