• In February, the DC Council bypassed the bidding process in its search for a sports betting partner.
  • DC Lottery operator Intralot was awarded a $215 million contract to offer sports betting in the city.
  • Council opposition to the Intralot selection has been growing of late.

WASHINGTON – Sports betting is legal in Washington D.C., but several hurdles stand in the way of a timely rollout.

The biggest issue is one of propriety and procedure. The DC Council is facing significant backlash for its decision to bypass the bidding process in awarding lottery operator Intralot a $215 million contract to handle D.C.’s mobile sports betting platform.

On Wednesday, the DC Council had a roundtable discussion regarding the issue.

Several council members are questioning the merit of Bill 23-25, which was passed in February. This bill allowed the city to bypass the typical bidding process in its search for a sports betting operator.

Councilman Robert White said that there was no justification for taking this anticompetitive tack.

However, the impetus for bypassing the bidding process was justified by Councilman Jack Evans. Evans argued that a speedy solution was required to fend off impending sports betting legalization in the neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia.

The DC Council concurred.

After all, both of those states seemed likely to pass sports betting laws this year. But neither has actually done so.

Now, the DC Council’s decision to award its sports betting contract to INTRALOT looks bad in retrospect. Coupled with Evans’ own ongoing ethics controversies , it looks even worse.

White’s response has been something of an I-told-you-so.

“I voted against a sole-source because I don’t think it was justified,” said White. “I didn’t buy the argument that Maryland and Virginia were going to quickly pass, and they didn’t. So now I wonder what’s the justification?”

Logically, Intralot isn’t an altogether unreasonable choice to handle the DC Lottery’s sports wagering initiative. The company already handles the city’s actual lottery product, and it is far from unprecedented for local governments to umbrella sports wagering under their lottery operations.

Nevertheless, Councilman John Ray is critical of the company from a financial perspective. He considers the brand to be a risky choice.

“How much money is it costing the district to finance this very weak financial company? If you learned the retirement board was investing your money in Intralot, would you be happy? Would you buy Intralot shares? If the answer to that is no, why would you ask the District taxpayers to invest their money in Intralot?”

While it’s true that Intralot has recently been downgraded by multiple credit rating outlets, there have been no scandals regarding its day-to-day activities as operator of the DC Lottery.

The DC Council has until July 25 to approve the Intralot contract.

If the lawmakers decide to scuttle the deal, it is unlikely that legal sports betting will launch in Washington D.C. this year.

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