PlayUSA Rewind: Independent DC Sportsbook Eyes Thanksgiving Opening

Posted on October 27, 2020 - Last Updated on October 29, 2020

Another week, another opportunity to fill readers in on essential gambling stories floating around the internet.

This week, small businesses in our nation’s capital are one step closer to being represented in the sports betting conversation. Additionally, Maryland gets a big political boost from its governor, and a pair of gaming states ponder their ultimate pipe dream.

On to the Rewind:

Locally owned sportsbook ready for DC debut

I’ve written extensively about Shane August and his efforts to launch an independent sportsbook in Washington, DC. If all goes according to plan, by Thanksgiving, August’s DC sports betting venture, Handle 19, will make it across the finish line.

August first pitched the idea of inclusion in 2019 before the Committee of Finance & Revenue, arguing that small business owners should get the opportunity to compete with big-name operators.

Flash-forward and here we are, with Handle 19 so close to becoming the first independent sportsbook to open in the US.

The takeaway: Political figures won’t stop talking about big business dominating every market. That goes for sports betting as well. Only operators like DraftKings, FanDuel, William Hill, Caesars Entertainment and Penn National Gaming are associated with sports betting. August is hoping to change that by carving out his own section of the sports betting market. Should he succeed, well, that is a different conversation. But the fact remains, this is a significant step toward greater sports betting inclusion.

Maryland sports betting gains a political ally

Maryland has been on the sports betting radar for quite some time. Even now, all eyes are on the state as Election Day approaches. Why? Because residents will vote on whether lawmakers should resume efforts to pass a sports betting bill next year.

At the ballot box, Maryland residents will be asked to vote on Question 2:

Do you approve the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and events betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?

And now, sports betting has gained a political ally in Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Hogan formally endorsed the initiative, saying:

“Question 2 provides a critical revenue source for public education without raising taxes on families and businesses. This initiative builds on the very successful ‘Hogan Lockbox,’ which puts casino revenues in a lockbox dedicated to education. We are already funding our K-12 schools at record levels, and this is another way to ensure that is the case for years to come.”

The takeaway: Hogan has widespread support in Maryland, which means if he endorses something like Morton’s Salt or werewolves or sports betting, people will listen. This is excellent news for operators like DraftKings and FanDuel, who have dumped truckloads of cash into campaign efforts to get Question 2 passed. With the governor’s support, hopefully, it will be money well spent.

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Pipe dreams in Ohio and New York

Our last story deals with a pair of states still looking at greener pastures.

Ohio has been trying to legalize sports betting since 2018. Regardless of what people say, whether it’s political infighting, tax rates or securing votes, the reason nothing has progressed is simple. Lawmakers can’t decide which government agency will run the damn thing. One side of the aisle wants the State Lottery to be in charge, the other, the Casino Commission. And neither side wants to back down.

New York — which launched retail-only sports betting in 2019 — has been trying to get Gov. Andrew Cuomo to embrace NY mobile wagering since forever. The man simply will not budge, even when facing a $13.3 billion shortfall for 2021.

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow has been talking about online sports betting since February. He said he had the votes then; let’s assume he still has the votes now. His counterpart in the Senate, Joseph Addabado Jr., is waiting for the governor to come around.

Has anyone heard from Assembly Speaker Carl Hastie?

Hastie is the gatekeeper. Until you get him on board with mobile wagering, all this back-and-forth is meaningless.

The takeaway: Ohio and New York are both overcomplicating simple answers to basic equations. For Ohio, until one side can flex its political muscle and decide who will run sports betting, residents will be forced to keep waiting. As for New York, its residents will continue to fund NJ sports betting. Regardless of what Pretlow or Addabado says, keep dreaming until you get Carl Hastie on your side.

Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
Written by
Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago, writing about local politics, and in Washington, D.C., covering the expanding gambling industry. Now back in Chicago, he continues to write about the emerging sports betting market with a focus on the Midwest. Originally from West Texas, he graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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