A proposed $215 million contract to the gaming company Intralot has come under scrutiny, forcing city officials to question whether to re-open the bidding process.
At a public roundtable last week, the D.C. Council Committee of the Whole discussed the proposed Intralot agreement and met pushback from the public.
At the heart of the deal, Intralot would be in charge of sports betting and the district’s lottery system.
Speaking as a member of the public, Councilmember John Ray believes that adding sports betting to the lottery contract for Intralot is nothing more than a “generous tip to the sole-source winner.”
At the roundtable, Ray challenged the board’s decision, specifically attacking the long-term financial viability of Intralot.
“How much money is it costing the district to finance this very weak financial company,” Ray asked.
“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? Mister Chairman, you need to take a serious look at this contract,” he concluded.
After Ray’s comments, the American Gaming Association stayed neutral with their opinion on the proposal, but iDEA Growth issued a statement denouncing the Intralot proposal.
“History demonstrates that competition through a consumer-choice business model brings revenue and creates a robust industry,” wrote iDEA founder Jeff Ifrah in the press release.
Lottery officials that support the fast-tracked contract with Intralot believe that the deal would reap immediate benefits and offering open bidding would take 18-24 months to find a winner.
With most operators believing that Washington D.C. would be ready to take bets in November, the 18-24 month prediction turned some heads in the industry.
What is undecided with the Intralot deal is how this would affect sports betting. Would the state offer Nevada-style betting or do something more like a lottery system that might negatively affect bettors?
At the center of the firestorm is Councilmember Jack Evans, who has spearheaded the deal with Intralot.
Evans has been accused of being too friendly with lobbyists due to a consulting contract he received that netted the councilmember over $350,000 annually.
Craig Holman, a lobbyist for a non-profit government watchdog group, feels that Evans should not be a part of the decision making for sports betting due to his questionable ethics.
“Even if Evans was a highly ethical person, this arrangement is a direct and substantial conflict of interest,” Holman said.
A single operator system in D.C., under Intralot, could stifle the growth of sports betting in the district, causing even more concern for Evans’ comfort level with the company.
Adding another wrinkle to the Evans’ saga was the announcement that his home had been raided by federal agents.
Lottery officials did state at the roundtable that federal prosecutors have not asked for information on Evans.
With the cloudy future of sports betting in Washington D.C., one has to believe that we won’t see a solid plan for wagering this year.
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