Yesterday, the D.C. Council gave the nod to a sole source contract for Intralot. Under the contract, the Greece-based gaming company would be able to manage an online sports betting and lottery program in the US capital. The sole source contract is estimated at $215 million and will cover a period of five years.
The D.C. Council approved the already controversial contract with a 7 to 5 vote after most of its 13 members shared concerns about the deal which has been involved in an ethics scandal tied to Jack Evans, a Ward 2 Council member. The approval came after several lawmakers eventually voted “yes” in spite of their previous doubts related to Evans’ involvement and the decision of the Council to ban competitive bidding rules making Intralot with a monopolist on online sports bets in Washington D.C.
Phil Mendelson, the Chairman of the Council, has warned that if the contract was rejected, there would be another two or even three years before a new contract emerged in place. Mr. Mendelson also explained that he was aware of the controversy, dispute and delay that would accompany the contract, but a several-year-delay would cost too much to the community.
The seven Council members who voted in favor of the sole source contract to be given to Intralot are Phil Mendelson, Kenyan R. McDuffie, Vincent C. Gray, Anita Bonds, Jack Evans, Brandon T. Todd and Robert C. White Jr. Five Council members voted against the proposed measure, as they have announced before the meeting – Brianne K. Nadeau, Charles Allen, David Grosso, Elissa Silverman and Mary M. Cheh. Councilmember Trayon White Sr. was absent from the meeting due to personal reasons.
Sole Source Contract Would Allow D.C. Roll Out Sports Betting Earlier
At the time when the vote took place, three council members – Silverman, Cheh and Grosso – said that Evans should excuse himself from the vote because of the potential conflict of interest associated with his private business relationship with one of the Intralot Lobbyists, William Jarvis. As explained by Councilmember Evans, the role of Mr. Jarvis in his private firm, NSE Consulting, was only limited to helping out with some paperwork at the time when the business was established.
Asked whether he would abstain from voting, Evans rejected such possibility.
D.C. Councilmember Evans was one of the head advocates of sports betting legalization in the District and of the piece of legislation under which Intralot was allowed to make a bid on the online sports betting contract. According to him and other lobbyists, a sole-source contract would provide the nation’s capital with the chance to roll out sports betting services before neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland do that.
Online Sports Betting Expected to Start Operation in Early 2020
Reportedly, most of the contract would benefit a number of local subcontractors, several of whom are known for their political connections. Among the subcontractors are a law firm which lobbied in favor of the gambling legislation in D.C. Council, an ex-official of D.C. State Board, a friend of the Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie, etc.
Opponents of the proposed deal claimed there were deep flaws in the proposal and the contract’s possible passage would undermine people’s trust in the local Government. D.C. Council’s Chairman, however, said that there was no relationship between the District and the subcontractors, and the latter had not been selected by the District Government. According to him, an eventual rejection of the sole-source contract could possibly create new lobbying groups of local companies trying to get a new deal.
According to preliminary expectations, the residents and visitors of Washington D.C. may be able to legally place sports bets at local businesses and special areas this fall at the earliest. The mobile application through which online bets are set to be taken would be managed by Intralot. The app is expected to start operation in early 2020 and is expected to become the most preferred way to bet.