DC Council approves controversial sports betting contract

WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) -- In at 7-5 vote, the DC Council passed a controversial sports betting contract despite concerns from several councilmembers about connections between the businesses benefiting from the deal and the DC government.

The contract went to Intralot, a Greek company, in a no-bid process. It is worth an estimated $215 million over five years.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and councilmembers Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Robert White Jr. (D-At Large), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), Vince Gray (D-Ward 7) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) voted for the contract.

Voting against the contract were Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), David Grosso (I-At Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6).

Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8) was absent from the vote.

Several councilmembers asked Evans to recuse himself over concerns about his relationship with a lobbyist for Intralot. Evans did not recuse himself from the vote.

There were also questions about the political connections and the relative inexperience of several subcontractors, as first reported by the Washington Post.

Silverman asked her colleagues to "hit pause" on the process, citing concerns that councilmembers were led to believe the non-competitive selection of Intralot was aimed at beating Maryland and Virginia to the profits from sports betting. It is now clear those jurisdictions did not rush to pass similar laws.

Mendelson urged his colleagues to approve the contract and spoke to FOX 5 after the vote.

"The contract is a fair price and in fact arguably it's a better price than similar-sized lotteries are paying and because we've committed to going forward with the sports wagering, said Mendelson. "It is to our benefit to enact this sooner rather than later," he continued.

Gray brought up emergency legislation Tuesday that would divert the estimated $20 million in revenue from sports betting to early childhood education and violence prevention in the form of the NEAR Act, but the initiative failed. Gray says he plans to bring it up again when council returns from the summer recess. As it stands, the revenue is set to go to the city's general fund.

"It's a very worthy purpose that we're involved in to be able to direct money from the sports wagering to early childhood education and to the NEAR Act. I don't think anybody can argue with the importance of those purposes and those programs," Gray said.