Yesterday, the DC Council passed a bill that will legalize sports gaming in DC. We’re thrilled they’re moving quickly to create an environment where fans will be able enjoy this incredible new frontier in data-driven entertainment. Since the US Supreme Court repealed the federal ban on sports betting this past May, I’ve been an evangelist for the great opportunities that legalized sports betting will create – for fans, who will be able to dive into an even more immersive experience with their favorite teams, and for leagues and owners, who can now push the envelope in creating innovative, next generation entertainment. Multi-screen, VR, AR – you can imagine the almost limitless opportunities for some incredible experiences both in-arena and out.
However, the Council’s bill misses the mark in some really critically important ways that are going to hamper both the fan experience and the economic benefits for our city. In addition to lacking key consumer protections, it also effectively gives the DC Lottery a monopoly for district-wide mobile betting. Instead of allowing multiple operators to compete for fan interest in the marketplace by putting forward their best and most efficient apps, it hands the only license for district-wide mobile betting to the DC Lottery. That hurts the fans, who don’t benefit from improvement driven by competition, and it hurts the city, which will lose out on revenue from third parties who would otherwise have been investing in this market in an effort to compete. The lack of marketplace competition not only means that fans won’t have access to the latest and best mobile sports betting solutions, but it may also may also compromise one of the primary purposes of legalizing sports betting in the first place: shining sunlight on an otherwise-unregulated industry and bringing those dollars out of the shadows and into our city’s economy, where they can be taxed and can contribute to our public revenues.
I think the Council has taken an important first step, but I’m deeply hopeful that the City will work quickly to fix what’s wrong with this bill, so that we can maximize benefits for everyone in DC. If we don’t get this right, we will get left behind in a rapidly-innovating marketplace.