DC almost introduces sports gambling

The political hub of the U.S. wants sports gambling, but needs more time

Washington, D.C. was ready to move forward with sports gambling. It had everything lined up, including the possibility of an organization to oversee the industry. However, just as the district’s city council was ready to release the dogs, it found itself in a pickle that has forced it to reconsider. For now, gambling fans in the nation’s capital are going to have to keep their wallets in their pockets until an amenable resolution is found.

There had been initial talk of allowing the district’s D.C. Lottery organization oversee the sports gambling industry. The entity was virtually handed the industry on a silver platter with no input from anyone – other than the council and the Lottery itself. This has raised a couple of eyebrows, leading city council officials to postpone sports gambling in an effort to give the public time to provide its feedback.

Almost always, government entities must submit new ideas to a public bidding process in order to ensure there aren’t any underhanded or shady deals afoot. This didn’t happen when the D.C. Lottery was initially proposed as the governing body for sports gambling, leading to the council deciding to postpone the legislation during a meeting held yesterday.

Mary M. Cheh, council member for D.C.’s Ward 3, said, “We would lose some months … [but] we would at least have it out there in the open and have a hearing.” Her opinion was seconded by the representative of Ward 1, Brianne K. Nadeau, who asserted that it would be a bad idea to handle any sports gambling legislative proposals as emergency bills that don’t require public hearings. She stated, “I’ve just not seen anyone demonstrate that this is an emergency situation.”

Sports gambling was approved by the city council last month, becoming the first jurisdiction in the Washington area to give its approval to the activity. It is now joined by seven states, apart from Nevada, to allow gambling on professional sports games. Two other areas linked strongly to Washington – Virginia and Maryland – have not yet approved sports gambling, which means D.C. could potentially be the first.

The Executive Director for the D.C. Lottery, Beth Bresnahan, argues that delaying the decision will cost the city millions. In a letter she wrote to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson last week, she asserted that the costs of any delay are “significant,” and said that the district could lose up to $61 million in lost sports gambling revenue.

Bresnahan also stated, “If Virginia and Maryland offer sport wagering before the District, these states will be better able to establish customer relationships with their residents, thus depriving the District of potential revenue from commuters, who double our adult population every work day. This revenue may never be recovered.”

Council members weren’t convinced by Bresnahan’s words. Council member Anita Bonds responded, “Most of us will not change our minds, but at least the public will have had an opportunity to understand where we are coming from.”

For now, and possibly for the near future, sports gambling won’t be coming to D.C. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the federal government is doing enough gambling on its own.

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