D.C. Council to Vote on Sports Betting Bill

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D.C. could grow a few steps closer toward joining eight states that have already legalized sports betting when the city council votes Tuesday — a move that even more states have been predicted to make after the Supreme Court struck down previous federal law that prohibited it in May.

Still, as Councilman Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) indicated earlier this fall, the bill may require a few more changes before the full council feels comfortable enough to vote yes on the legislation.

As D.C. Council takes a more insightful review of the pros and cons, other states in the region including Virginia and Maryland are expected to debate the issue early next year.

The bill, in its present form, would allow private operators to apply for licenses to operate sports betting facilities throughout the District with one class of licenses reserved for the city’s five existing stadiums and arenas and another class of licenses allowing it at venues like bars and restaurants. The bill would also establish a two-block radius around the stadiums and arenas in which no other betting facility could open.

One stumbling block recently cited has been a royalty requested by some of the sports leagues, including MLB, the NBA and the PGA who want all operators to pay 25 cents for every $100 bet — something that say would cover the cost of them providing exclusive data and trademarked content to betting operations in the city. But as Evans has indicated, not only would D.C. be the first to require such a royalty, but he says it’s too high. Councilman Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) successfully eliminated the royalty fee from the bill citing the fact that major sports leagues didn’t need the money.

Mayor Muriel Bowser says she backs the bill, stating that “sports betting can help us fund critical programs, create jobs for District residents and allow visitors and commuters to further participate in our economy.”

But before the council votes on the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act 2018, authorizing sports wagering in the District, one council member says he wants to ensure a provision that would make minority inclusion mandatory.

Councilman Robert White (D-At Large) wants small, local, women- and minority-owned businesses, as well as certified business enterprises (CBEs), to have a real chance to participate in the emerging sports betting market, closing financial gaps that have persisted for decades. White says he’ll present an amendment to the bill that would call for mandatory minority inclusion — Amendment 1.

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