- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2019

International gaming company Intralot’s connections to Jack Evans raised plenty of concerns — but in the end, they weren’t enough to stop the embattled D.C. council member’s colleagues from awarding the firm a highly sought-after contract to manage online sports betting in the District.

In a 7 to 5 vote Tuesday, the council awarded a five-year, $215 million sole-source contract to the Greek company — despite lingering questions about Mr. Evans’ connections to the firm and its subcontractors.

The vote gives Intralot, which also runs the city’s lottery, the right to operate the city’s mobile sports betting app and online betting programs, which are expected to come online next year.

Effectively, mobile sports wagering won’t be allowed anywhere in the District unless it is done through the city’s official still-to-be-developed-by-Intralot app — though there are exceptions.

For example, sports vendors like Capital One Arena or Nationals Park can offer a sports betting app that can be used by gamblers in or near their facilities.

Other states, such as New Jersey, have allowed for multiple sportsbooks — like DraftKings and FanDuel — to offer sports betting, either through a mobile app or through a website.

Council member David Grosso, at-large independent, called the contract a “boondoggle.”

“The sole-sourced sports wagering contract before us is simply a bad deal that has been unnecessarily rushed, involves a questionable contractor, reeks of pay-to-play, and is tainted by the ethical issues surrounding (council member) Evans. I cannot support it,” tweeted Mr. Grosso.

Mr. Evans, a Ward 2 Democrat, has been reprimanded for using his position as the longest serving council member to benefit the clients of his consulting firm, NSE Consulting.

In a council meeting last week, Mr. Evans told colleagues that William Jarvis, a lobbyist hired to lobby the city on behalf of Intralot, was a longtime friend and that he was only associated with NSE Consulting in that he helped him register the business.

However, The Washington Post obtained emails in which Mr. Jarvis offered detailed legal advice about one of Mr. Evans’ NSE clients.

Council member Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, called for Mr. Evans to recuse himself from Tuesday’s vote, but he did not.

The legislation was also criticized after The Washington Post reported that many of the seven subcontractors involved in the project have political connections to D.C. government officials that create, at the least, the appearance of conflicts of interest.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the District only has a relationship with Intralot.

“The District has no relationship with the subcontractor; did not choose them, cannot fire them, cannot direct them, does not pay them,” the at-large chairman said.

If the Council disapproves of this contract now, there will be many more subcontractors in the future, and allegations of favoritism will be “inescapable,” Mr. Mendelson said.

Council members supporting the deal argued the city would lose millions if they didn’t fast-track the process.

Mr. Mendelson said it would be another two to three years before the council approved another contract which would involve more controversy, a protest filed with the contract appeals board and “a lot of delay.”

“If we were to move this contract through another channel, District-based, women and minority-owned businesses are not likely to do better than they are in this contract,” said Council member Robert White Jr., at-large Democrat.

WTOP reported in April that the city still must find a company to design the city’s mobile app — making the timeline of a potential launch unclear. The District had originally hoped to launch its sports betting program in time for the start of the NFL season in September, but that did not include mobile bets.

Sports betting was first introduced in December 2018 and passed weeks later.

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