D.C. Fast Tracks Sports Betting to Get a Leg Up on Md.

    Top city officials in Washington, D.C. are moving quickly to legalize wagering on professional sports, a move fueled by a desire to give the nation’s capital a leg up on neighboring Maryland.

    On Tuesday the District of Columbia Council adopted legislation to fast-track a sports wagering measure approved last year.

    The measure, which is now headed to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) for her signature, would give Intralot, the current operator of the D.C. Lottery, the exclusive right to develop a sports betting app, which residents could use anywhere in the District of Columbia.

    This is how WAMU reported on the “sprint” to get sports wagering legislation through D.C. City Hall: 

    “The speed with which sports betting has moved through the Wilson Building — the Supreme Court made it legal last May and a bill was introduced in the Council in September — is a reflection of city officials’ desire to beat Maryland and Virginia to the punch, and capitalize on the estimated $90 million in revenue expected from sports betting over the first four years of its existence.”

    According to the station, one class of licenses would be set aside for facilities located at four of the city’s stadiums and arenas: Nationals Park, Audi Field, Capital One Arena and the new St. Elizabeth’s East Entertainment and Sports Arena.

    Another class of licenses would allow sports betting at other facilities, like bars and restaurants, WAMU reported. But they would not be allowed within two blocks of the stadiums and arenas.

    The city’s chief financial officer urged lawmakers to adopt the fast-track approach, even though it means bypassing the traditional competitive-bidding process.

    “This will result in early revenue and maximize the ability of the District to be an early adopter of sports wagering,” said Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D).

    On March 6, two legislative committees in Maryland — House Ways & Means and Senate Budget & Taxation — will hear testimony on bills that would legalize pro sports betting in the state.

    One of the measures would put the issue on the ballot in November of 2020. 

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    Bruce DePuyt
    Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.