In a normal world, today would have been a big day for the D.C. Lottery. Fifteen months after the D.C. Council approved sports betting and nearly a year after the Office of Lottery and Gaming began work on developing regulations and licensing on the biggest new product in recent history, today would have been the day that Washingtonians could have finally legally placed a bet on sports.
But with COVID-19 sweeping the globe and U.S. major professional sports on hold since March 12, the world is anything but normal. And the D.C. Lottery, despite its preparations, won’t launch sports betting today.
“The Lottery’s sports wagering mobile and web platforms are tested and ready to go live. These platforms would be launched (today) if there were live sports available for consumers to place wagers,” an Office of Lottery and Gaming spokesperson told Sports Handle by e-mail. “At this time, almost all professional sports leagues around the world have suspended indefinitely play due to growing concerns around the COVID-19 virus and, as a consequence, there are little-to-no games or bets to offer. This goes for the Lottery’s offering, as well as any other sports books operating in the U.S. and globally.”
Sports betting timetable open ended
As of now, the Lottery has no firm timetable for the launch of its product, though the plan is to “introduce the brand and its functionalities” in the next few days.
“We are revising our sports wagering launch strategy based on the current state of world events,” according to the spokesperson. “The Lottery and Intralot are prepared to launch the platform when it is safe for the sports world to return.”
Had the Lottery chosen to move forward with its product today, it would have been the fourth to do so this month behind Michigan, Illinois and Montana, all of which launched within days of sports being suspended.
D.C. Lottery officials had planned to launch sports betting during what is usually an exciting and busy time of year sportswise — both the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and Major League Baseball’s opening day are spring rites of passage.
The Lottery’s decision to delay was likely a painful one, after a tumultuous year of delays and some scandal. The D.C. Council member who championed sports betting was expelled from the Council; the Council opted to bypass the bid process and hand the Lottery’s sports betting contract to Intralot; the proposed rules were heavily criticized and revised; and a mobile app developer filed a lawsuit against the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer, which oversees the Lottery.
Among the reasons the D.C. Council and the city’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer pushed for speedy approval of sports betting was the potential revenue to the city. According to the City Paper, D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffery DeWitt is now warning that D.C. could have a $500 million budget shortfall.
D.C. wanted to be a first mover in region
Washington, D.C., lawmakers were among the first in their region to legalize sports betting. Delaware and West Virginia, which offer retail and statewide mobile sports betting, were the first and fourth states to take sports bets after the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned in May 2018.
Since then, Virginia lawmakers earlier this month approved retail and statewide mobile sports betting and are awaiting Governor Ralph Northam’s signature to make it legal. Maryland lawmakers will send the decision on sports betting to voters in November.
Besides the Lottery option in D.C., operators will be able to offer retail sports betting at sites throughout the city, including professional sports venues. So far, four applications have been submitted, including one for a Class A Operator’s license from American Wagering (William Hill), which will operate the sportsbook inside Capital One Arena. When that book opens, it will make history as the first inside a professional stadium, and bettors will be able to wager both at retail locations and via on-site mobile within the stadium and its exclusion zone.
SportRadar and Scientific Games are the most recent to file for licenses, and both are seeking supplier licenses. According to the OLG website, all three applications are under review. A fourth application, also for a supplier’s license, was submitted by a company called Media Troopers in February, and that one is listed as “received” rather than under review.
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