DC Council Approves Sports-Betting Overhaul

June 26, 2024
The DC Council gave final approval Tuesday to legislation that will open the District of Columbia’s sports wagering market to multiple mobile operators for the first time.

The DC Council gave final approval Tuesday (June 25) to legislation that will open the District of Columbia’s sports wagering market to multiple mobile operators for the first time.

The council unanimously approved the Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Support Act of 2024, a bill that implements policies to facilitate the annual budget, during a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Included in the budget bill is legislation to grant professional sports facilities licensed to offer land-based wagering and limited mobile wagering in the area around the venue the right to offer mobile betting across the district, as well as creating new mobile licenses for operators that partner with a DC-based professional sports team. 

With Mayor Muriel Bowser’s signature, the budget bill would end the DC Lottery’s monopoly on district-wide mobile sports wagering that was enacted through legislation in 2018.

Since launching in 2020, the DC Lottery’s GambetDC platform posted consistently underwhelming results and faced regular scrutiny from councilmembers, particularly as neighboring Maryland and Virginia launched far more successful mobile sports-betting programs served by multiple operators.

Earlier this year, Intralot subcontracted the mobile wagering portion of its technology contract with the DC Lottery to FanDuel, which began offering mobile wagering in the district in March.

But even as the new FanDuel platform posted significantly improved record revenue figures, it was too little, too late for the DC Council.

FanDuel president Christian Genetski wrote in a letter to council chair Phil Mendelson earlier this month that the Flutter-owned company would terminate its subcontract if the new plan was approved and pivot toward instead obtaining a mobile license with partner Audi Field, home of Major League Soccer’s DC United, where FanDuel operates a land-based sportsbook.

Under the monopoly subcontract, FanDuel paid a 40 percent share of revenues to the DC government, whereas the professional sports facility licensees would pay a 20 percent tax under the budget bill. Operators that obtain one of the newly-created licenses linked to DC professional teams would pay a 30 percent tax.

FanDuel would also no longer be responsible for providing kiosks for select DC lottery retailers under the agreement, and the possible loss of revenue for small businesses from the kiosks was one concern that some councilmembers expressed leading up to Tuesday’s vote.

The budget bill was amended on Tuesday to include a requirement that the DC Lottery provide wagering kiosks to retailers either through its contract with Intralot, or by requiring one or more licensed mobile operators to operate the kiosks.

“I know that some operators have expressed a willingness to provide the kiosks should the contractor not provide them, while others have expressed an affirmative interest in doing so,” said councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who pushed for the new sports-betting plan.

“The amendment allows the Office of Lottery and Gaming to either assign one operator to provide all the kiosks or spread the responsibility among others,” McDuffie said. 

The amendment also includes a $1,000 daily fine for operators who are assigned to provide kiosks and fail to do so.

Mayor Bowser has not indicated whether she will sign the bill into law, but with the unanimous passage of the bill by the council, a veto would be a strong candidate to be overridden. In several letters to the council regarding the budget, Bowser did not address the sports-betting portions of the legislation.

The sports wagering provisions are set to take effect July 15.

Some limitations will remain in place for DC-wide mobile betting event under the more competitive framework.

That includes a prohibition on offering wagers on federal lands where gambling is prohibited by federal law, as well as within a two-block radius around licensed professional sports facilities where no other operators are permitted to offer mobile betting other than the facility's partner. 

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