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D.C. sports betting app to go live in March; Capital One Arena seeks sportsbook

In this Nov. 18, 2019, photo, a patron visits a betting kiosk in the sports betting area of Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I. Legalized sports betting is on its way to the District.
In this Nov. 18, 2019, photo, a patron visits a betting kiosk in the sports betting area of Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I. Legalized sports betting is on its way to the District. (Steven Senne/AP)
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The long-awaited app to place bets on sports is scheduled to launch in the nation’s capital in March, D.C. gambling regulators said Friday, and the only application for a sportsbook license so far involves a British bookmaker looking to operate at Capital One Arena.

The legalization of sports betting in the District allows residents and visitors to place wagers at stores with gambling kiosks, arenas, licensed restaurants and bars and on a city-owned app. But the program has been slow to launch amid litigation and controversy over the city’s handling of sports betting legalization.

Officials hoped the program would launch in September with the start of the NFL season. They pushed lawmakers to suspend procurement rules and award a no-bid contract to Greek gaming giant Intralot to oversee mobile betting. The city faced a lawsuit over the no-bid contract, and a judge temporarily blocked the city from moving forward.

The D.C. Lottery, which is overseeing sports betting, says the app, later aimed for January, should be live in March. Only adults over the age of 18 can use the app, and only within city limits.

The D.C. Lottery began accepting applications for sports betting licenses in December. As of Friday, the sole applicant was a company led by executives of the British bookmaker William Hill, which has struck a deal with the owner of Capital One Arena to operate a sportsbook at a site formerly occupied by the Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Grille.

Ted Leonsis, whose company owns the Washington Wizards and Capitals, has been a major booster of sports betting.

Regulators met with the applicant on Friday. A lottery spokeswoman said regulators met with other prospective sports betting operators who have not formally submitted applications yet.

D.C. United and Caesars Entertainment have been negotiating plans to open a sportsbook at Audi Field this year, The Washington Post reported last November.

Alcohol regulators have also allowed sports gambling at 13 bars and restaurants and are considering applications from 16 more. Those establishments still need approval from gaming regulators before taking bets.

“The Lottery is committed to maximizing revenue generated for the District through the responsible management and sale of innovative and entertaining game offerings,” spokeswoman Nicole Jordan said in an email.

The District’s mobile sports betting program has been the subject of scrutiny over the beneficiaries.

D.C. officials said the $215 million Intralot contract benefits local business because most of the work is subcontracted to a local firm.

But a Post investigation found that the local firm, Veterans Services Corp., had no employees and its website touted executives who didn’t work there.

Other subcontractors for the project involve individuals with political connections, including a former campaign hand for D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and council member Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4), a former school board member and a contractor previously ousted from managing a homeless family shelter.

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