The D.C. Council voted a five-year agreement with the Athens-based gaming firm Intralot for $215 million in order to carry out an e-sports betting and lottery program in the city. The business is expected to earn D.C. approximately $92 million over four years.
Ahead of the 7-to-5 vote, a number of concerns centering around the contract were expressed by the Council members, who questioned the morality of it. Councilmember Jack Evans was pressing for the agreement, before being exposed for involvement in an ethics scandal. However, a majority of the members ended up approving the bid.
Evans is currently under investigation and has been stripped of chairmanship of D.C. Council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue. The politician, who recently had a home raid from the FBI, reportedly has strong ties to Intralot.
Evans is accused of abusing his post as the Principal Director, representing the District of Columbia, on the board of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in return for $50,000 per year.
Intralot, which is already running the D.C. Lottery, is known for providing “integrated gambling, transaction processing systems, game content, sports betting management and interactive gambling services, to state-licensed gaming organizations worldwide.” It functions both as a lottery vendor and a lottery operator.
“If we turn this down, there will be another two years, some have said three years, before we have a contract in place,” Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said, according to the Washington Post. “We just know there will be a protest, there will be a lot of controversy, a lot of dispute, and a lot of delay. And there is a significant cost to a delay of a couple of years.”
It is also reported that the local subcontractors which would take advantage of the deal do not have much experience in sports gambling, but they have political affiliations.
The Washington Post reported that a former D.C. State Board of Education official, former campaign advisers to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and a friend of Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie are among the subcontractors.
“This stinks,” Councilmember Elissa Silverman was quoted as saying. “Given all the ethics clouds over this building and this contract, we need to hit pause. We need to restore the public’s trust, but with the approval of this contract, we will continue to erode it.”
The District of Columbia had legalized sports betting last February. Both Silverman and David Grosso voted against the bill at the time.
Mentioning the “high credit risk” of Intralot that was downgraded by Moody’s to a ‘B3’ status, Grosso had said “This is a vote against Intralot’s rating downgrade, a vote against streamlining a tax of the poor and a vote against pay-to-play behavior. And I urge my colleagues to do the same.”